Let’s get straight to the point: Poinsettias are NOT poisonous for your pets.

The rumour that poinsettias are poisonous is an urban legend that has been making the rounds every Christmas since 1919. We hear it all the time, even here in Powell River. It’s simply not true, but it’s easy to justify fear with “well, better safe than sorry!”

Where Did The Myth Come From?

In 1919 rumours went around that a child had died in Hawai’i after eating wild poinsettia leaves. But it was just that, a rumour. Several medical practitioners in the area heard the rumour, and based on fear, started warning their patients about the danger. However, there was no evidence at all. There is no record of any sort of incident like this ever happening. That didn’t stop the urban legend from running rampant, as they often do. It was easy to believe since other Christmas plants, like holly and mistletoe, are actually poisonous.

In the 1970’s researchers at Ohio State University published a study about the poinsettia. Their study, and every study since, agrees that it is not poisonous. The study determined that for a 50-pound child to experience dangerous levels of toxicity from a poinsettia, they would have to eat 500 leaves. We wish we could get our kids that excited about eating salad!

Pets and Poinsettias

Your pets shouldn’t eat your poinsettia leaves, but mostly for the same reasons they shouldn’t eat any of your other houseplants: it hurts the plants! Leaves with tooth marks are going to shrivel up and die; your plants don’t deserve that, and you don’t want to look at that. For the sake of your plants, it’s a good idea to keep them all out of reach of pets. It’s fairly easy to keep houseplants out of reach of dogs, but of course, cats make their own rules about where they go in the house. Try to make your plants as uninteresting as possible. Use things your pets love, like treats or toys, to lure them away from plants when they get close.

It bears noting that, just because these classic holiday plants are not poisonous, it doesn’t mean they’re completely harmless, either. The sap from poinsettia can cause skin irritation for both pets and people. If your dog or cat eats a whole bunch of leaves, they’re likely to bring them back up, simply because they’ve eaten something that their body is not designed to deal with.

While the actual eating of the poinsettia is not necessarily dangerous, vomiting can cause dehydration pretty fast. Dehydration in small animals can lead to significant negative effects quite quickly. It’s always a good idea to offer your pet fresh water if you notice any vomiting.

So, if you catch your pets nibbling on any houseplants, encourage them to do something else and keep an eye on them. If they have actually eaten whole leaves, watch them closely, and make note of anything out of the ordinary.

Always call your vet if you notice any of these symptoms:

  • Prolonged nausea & vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constant licking of lips
  • Drooling
  • Skin irritation
  • Eye irritation
  • Retching

With so many fantastic varieties and colours of poinsettias now available, we are happy to see that they have survived this rumour and continue to be a beautiful addition to our home decor over the Christmas holidays. Hopefully, we can end the myth of poisonous poinsettias, and encourage more people to enjoy them worry-free.

Do you want to know the secret to keeping your cat out of your houseplants? Here it is; overwhelm them with plants! If there are so many plants in your house that they don’t even know where to start with chewing on them, they’ll likely give up and find something more interesting to mess with. If that sounds like a good plan to you, we can help you with that! Stop by our garden centre today; we’ve got lots of poinsettias and other awesome houseplants to explore. We’ve also got a great selection of pet toys and treats—great for keeping those serial nibblers busy!

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