Is It a Winter Wonderland or Is It a Winter Toxin?

The winter season can be very cold and long. To make house decor more festive it is often a fun idea to bring winter plants indoors to spruce up the home, but are all winter plants safe to have in the house? There are a handful of popular winter plants that can be dangerous for your pets to interact with and it’s important to be aware of what is coming into the household.


Poinsettias are a beautiful plant that are often brought into the household during the holidays. They are one of the most common toxic plants brought into the household during the winter season, but they only cause mild toxicity to dogs and cats. Clinical signs to watch for upon consumption include drooling, lip licking, vomiting, diarrhea, skin irritation, and eye irritation. They clinical signs typically resolve on their own over time and generally do not require veterinary treatment unless signs persist or are severe.


There are many different species of Mistletoe and they all have varying levels of toxicity associated with them. The risk with Mistletoe comes from animal consumption of the berries that are often present on this decorative plant. However, store bought Mistletoe plants will sometimes remove the berries and replace them with plastic berries, so it is important to check the berries before purchase. The American Mistletoe is less toxic than European Mistletoe varieties. Clinical signs associated with pets consuming European Mistletoe berries include gastrointestinal upset, vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, abdominal pain, uncoordinated movement, collapse, seizures, and even death. It is very important to recognize the potential severity of Mistletoe consumption and the risks that it could pose to your pet. Treatment often includes inducing vomiting, IV fluid therapy, and supportive care given by a veterinarian to control the clinical signs listed above.

Christmas Rose/Hellebore

Hellebore plants are also known as Christmas Roses. This is a beautiful plant that flowers during the wintertime and is a favorite to bring into the household during the colder season. However, this plant is moderately toxic if ingested by a pet. Clinical signs with Hellebore plant consumption include lethargy, diarrhea, vomiting, and drooling with small ingestions.  Increased thirst, difficulty breathing, paralysis, and seizures may occur if a large amount of the plant is ingested. Treatment for Hellebore poisoning typically involves thorough oral rinsing, inducing vomiting, IV fluid therapy, and supportive care provided by a veterinarian.


Holly is not commonly ingested by pets due to its prickly nature, but it is important to note this plant due to all parts of the Holly pant being toxic. Toxicosis is generally not expected in cats and the spines of the leaves usually dissuade dogs from eating large quantities of this plant. However, clinical signs that can be expected if your animal does consume this plant include diarrhea, drooling, anorexia, vomiting, head shaking, and lip smacking. Treatment for Holly plant ingestion generally includes inducing vomiting, full oral flush, fluid therapy, and supportive care provided by a veterinarian.

Knowing which types of plants that you bring into the household during the winter season is the number one way to prevent an unfortunate ingestion event by your pet. Stay aware of what plants your animal has contact with and be proactive about preventing poisonous ingestion. If your pet does come into contact with one of these plants, take action immediately. Contact a veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline® at 1-800-213-6680.


Written by:

Shiloh Walker, DVM student extern, University of Minnesota, Class of 2023