We have already started receiving enquiries involving various festive plants this year. Here is a summary of the species we most commonly receive calls about:

Holly – (Ilex aquifolium) Holly can cause – in dogs – hypersalivation, vomiting, inappetence, diarrhoea, lethargy and depression. Animals may also shake their head and smack their lips. Choking on the stiff leaves is also a potential hazard.

Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) Poinsettia has the reputation of being a toxic plant, but this has been greatly exaggerated. It can cause irritation to the mouth and stomach with hypersalivation and sometimes vomiting.

Mistletoe (Viscum album) The plant is considered to be of low toxicity. It is likely that reports of alarming effects refer to American mistletoe (Phoradendron flavescens) and not European mistletoe (Viscum album). Ingestion of the berries of European mistletoe may cause gastrointestinal upset.

Christmas Trees These trees are considered to be of low toxicity. Ingestion may cause a mild gastrointestinal upset and they could cause mechanical obstruction or physical injury (some needles are sharp).

Ivy (Hedera species) The ivy used in wreaths and decorations is Hedera helix (not Toxicodendron radicans, the American poison ivy). Ivy may cause gastrointestinal upset when ingested. Where there is significant or prolonged skin contact, Hedera species can cause both irritant and allergic contact dermatitis.

Lilies (Lilium species) Many households will have lilies at Christmas, and all parts of this plant, even the pollen, are extremely toxic to cats and cause severe kidney damage. Lilies are not hazardous to dogs and may cause only mild gastrointestinal upset if ingested.