In the Garden:
New England
December, 2012
Regional Report

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Daisy is trying to decide if this is a holiday decoration or a snack. She's ever hopeful that whatever she finds is edible, so I make sure plants are placed out of her reach.

Happy Holidays with Plants and Pets

I have a pug who's one of the sweetest creatures on the planet, but she was busy sniffing around for food when the smarts were being handed out. Anything that's on the floor, be it a crumb, a Brillo pad (yes, I've extracted one from her mouth) or a fallen leaf or blossom, goes down the hatch. So I'm always careful to check out the toxicity of any new plants I bring home, especially around holiday time as I decorate for the season or receive plants as gifts. And as I choose holiday plants to give to friends and family, I try to keep their pet ownership in mind as well.

Poinsettia Peril is Over-rated
For years folks have been warned about this Christmas season favorite, but it turns out that poinsettias have gotten an unfair rap in terms of their danger to both people and pets. While you don't want to add poinsettias to the Christmas Day dinner menu, studies have shown that a child would have to eat in excess of 500 leaves to suffer ill effects. And according to the ASPCA, the latex sap of poinsettias may cause some mouth and stomach irritation to dogs and cats, but the toxicity of these plants is over-rated in regards to pets. Still, if your pet is a curious plant nibbler, it would be a good idea to keep poinsettias out of reach.

Plants to Watch Out For
Other common holiday plants pose more of a threat. Florist's azaleas, Christmas cactus, cyclamen, kalanchoe, amaryllis, and clivia are all winter-flowering plants that are toxic to varying degrees to both dogs and cats. Cats are more inclined to nibble on plants than most dogs and also more likely to jump up onto surfaces where plants are displayed, so be extra cautious if you keep feline pets. Dogs generally hoover up plant parts from the floor. Grooming your plants regularly to remove fading leaves or blossoms before they fall helps prevent problems.

Find Out More
The ASPCA has a great on-line resource for pet owners and plant lovers. Their searchable database at provides a wealth of information on the pet toxicity of both indoor and outdoor plants, including the clinical signs of poisoning.

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