Are Poinsettias Poisonous to Cats & Dogs?


Though they have a bad rap, poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) plants are only mildly toxic to cats and dogs.


During the holidays, Poinsettias are a popular Christmas plant.

Mechanism of action:

The milky white sap found in poinsettias contains chemicals called diterpenoid euphorbol esters and saponin-like detergents. While poinsettias are commonly “hyped” as poisonous plants, they rarely are, and the poisoning is greatly exaggerated. Far more worrisome are the plants listed below!

Signs of poisoning:

Mild signs of vomiting, drooling, or rarely, diarrhea may be seen. If the milky sap is exposed to skin, dermal irritation (including redness, swelling, and itchiness) may develop. Rarely, eye exposure can result in a mild conjunctivitis (“pink eye” secondary to inflammation). Signs are self-limiting and generally don’t require medical treatment unless severe.

Antidote and treatment:

There is no antidote for poinsettia poisoning. That said, due to the low level of toxicity seen with poinsettia ingestion, medical treatment is rarely necessary unless clinical signs are severe.



Other plants to worry about:

Far more worrisome are holiday bouquets containing lilies, holly or mistletoe. Even bouquets brought into the house by holiday guests should be thoroughly inspected, as lilies are the #1 flower often used by florists. Just one or two bites from a lily can result in severe acute kidney failure in cats – even the pollen is thought to be poisonous! Other yuletide pants such as holly berries, mistletoe, and rosemary can also be toxic to dogs and cats. When Christmas or English holly is ingested, it can result in severe gastrointestinal upset thanks to the spiny leaves and the potentially toxic substances (including saponins, methylxanthines, and cyanogens). If ingested, most dogs and cats lip smack, drool, and head shake excessively due to the mechanical injury from the spiny leaves. As for mistletoe, most of us hang it high enough so it’s out of reach of our dogs and cats – nevertheless, it can also be toxic if ingested. Thankfully, American mistletoe is less toxic than the European varieties of it. Mild signs of gastrointestinal irritation are seen, although if ingested in large amounts, collapse, hypotension, ataxia (walking drunk), seizures and death have also been reported.

Published on February 24, 2011
Categorized under: Pet Safety Tips

20 Responses to “Are Poinsettias Poisonous to Cats & Dogs?”

  1. [...] more proof? The Pet Poison Helpline also talks about poinsettias in this article: Are Poinsettias Poisonous to Cats and Dogs? And this is what the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center has to say about poinsettias and [...]

  2. mary says:

    Are poinsettias poisonous to cats?

  3. jodey says:

    Thank you.

  4. [...] pose a much more significant hazard to pets, although European versions tend to be more toxic than North American varieties, and even the type of tree it is found on (mistletoe is essentially a parasite) will affect [...]

  5. Kayla says:

    What do I do if my dog or cat were to eat a peice of poinsettia? Ps: I have two small cats, a small & medium sized dog. I heard poinsettias were poisonous, but unsure

  6. [...] poinsettias aren’t toxic to cats or dogs, though the sap can cause skin irritation. The Pet Poison Hotline website considers poinsettias a “minimal” threat and adds that lilies, a flower [...]

  7. Matt says:

    my cockatiel bit a piece of green leaf. will he be okay?

    • Hi Matt,
      In order to speak with one of our veterinarians regarding a potential poison ingestion, you’ll have to call our 24/7 Helpline at 800-213-6680. Our website comments are not checked daily, nor are they monitored by a veterinary professional. Sorry for the inconvenience and we hope that your cockatiel is doing ok.
      Pet Poison Helpline

  8. [...] holiday plants are poisonous to pets?  Apparently, your pets don’t know.  According to, despite its ability to bring lovers together, mistletoe has no love to give to your pet!  Also, a [...]

  9. […] selecting holiday décor for yourself or others, please be sure to be child-safe and pet-safe. The Pet Poison Helpline will help you avoid plants that are dangerous to cats and dogs. And the Consumer Product Safety […]

  10. J Vlcek says:

    I think how a cat reacts to rosemary must be specific to each cat. I always have a potted rosemary in my house and one of my cats enjoys a bite now and then. It is, after all, a culinary herb.

  11. […] selecting holiday décor for yourself or others, please be sure to be child-safe and pet-safe. The Pet Poison Helpline will help you avoid plants that are dangerous to cats and dogs. And the Consumer Product Safety […]

  12. […] The Pet Poison Helpline has more information on their site. […]

  13. LindA says:

    My minature horse eat all the flowers off of 6 poinsettias plants do I need to worry

  14. […] that are more dangerous to your pets. Lilies, often in Christmas bouquets, can be much more toxic. The Pet Poison Helpline also warns against holly, mistletoe & rosemary.  As a general precaution, we recommend keeping […]

  15. […] Poinsettia, though only mildly toxic, is still a favorite pet chew toy. Watch out for these dangerous plants […]

  16. […] Both these plants are commonly used as decorative accents during the Holiday season.  Poinsettia can cause local irritation to the mouth, gums and GI tract if ingested.  Treat your pet by washing […]

  17. ENT Help says:

    Awesome, a couple of extremely great tips! I truly appreciate you crafting this post and the rest of your web site is exceptional!

  18. […] are many winter plants that pose a poisoning threat to most animals, including dogs. Around Christmas time, many people […]

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