My Dog Ate Poinsettia Leaves - Poinsettia and Dogs
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The holiday season allows us many pleasures and decorating the home is one of the most rewarding. When we live with animals, however, decorations can cause problems. Since dogs love playing with toys, it can be easy for them to mistake baubles and Christmas tree ornaments for them. Likewise, tinsel and streamers can be very tempting for them to pull down. However, ruining our festive decor is not the only problem caused by the holidays. Poinsettia is a seasonal plant which is very popular at Christmas time. It is also toxic to dogs.
At AnimalWised, we explain what happens when my dog ate a poinsettia leaf. We look at the relationship between poinsettia and dogs to work out how careful we need to be.
What is the poinsettia plant?
The poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) is a plant which is often associated with Christmas, in particular due to its red foliage contrasting with the green stem. Although popular as a potted plant around the holidays, it is actually a small tree and can grow the heights of over 13 feet.
Poinsettia plants are native to central America and it is here they were first associated with the celebration of Christmas within Christian religious communities. Millions of these plants are cultivated each year, but they aren't just for Christmas. Although many people only keep and tend to them over the holidays, they are perennial plants and can be maintained throughout the year.
However, the leaves of the Poinsettia only appear for a shorter period in the winter. This is also why they are associated with the holidays. They actually bloom for longer, but the bloom consists of bracts for the most part. The leaves only appear for a relatively short time.
Perhaps it is the color which attracts dogs and other animals to eat them. It is something which not only hurts our decorative arrangements, but it may pose a risk to our companions animals.
Are poinsettia leaves poinsonous to dogs?
The history of the poinsettia has led to a lot of misinformation about this plant. An urban legend dating back to 1919 in the USA incorrectly claimed a small boy was killed from eating poinsettia leaves. This untruth has led to the popular view of the poinsettia plant being lethal to small children, something which has also spread to encompass animals.
Ingestion of poinsettia leaves is very unlikely to be fatal to dogs. The ASPCA claims that the levels of toxicity are ‘generally over-rated’. However, the plant is toxic to dogs. Although not fatal, they can cause health problems and need to be avoided. If the dog only ate one poinsettia leaf or less, an adverse reaction is even more unlikely.
There are two main ways the poinsettia leaves can cause harm to our dog. Ingestion of the poinsettia leaves can leak the sap into their mouth when chewing. This can irritate the mouth and gums, but also the stomach and esophagus, potentially leading to vomiting.
The dog may be affected on their skin, especially if it comes in contact with their eyes. Since the dog may be curious, they may smell the leaves and get some sap on their skin. The symptoms should be mild and it is unlikely there will be a severe reaction, but we need to be careful regardless. It may only result in the eyes becoming bloodshot, but it is better to be safe than sorry.
What are symptoms of poinsettia toxicity in dogs?
Although not fatal to dogs, it is possible they will have and adverse reaction. This will depend on the amount ingested or the amount of sap which has come in contact with the dog's skin. Also, if the sap comes in contact with sensitive areas of the body, the symptoms may be more acute. They include:
- Skin irritation
- Blisters (when the ingested amount is high)
All types of poisoning in dogs will have similar symptoms, but some are more severe than others and may have specific ramifications. Take a look at our article on cannabis poisoning in dogs for further examples.
What to do if your dog ate poinsettia leaves
Whether your suspect or know for sure your dog ate poinsettia leaves, we need to be careful. The dog may suffer intoxication, but it can be complicated by an allergic reaction. Although both worrying, they affect the dog in different ways. In a severe allergic reaction, the dog can go into anaphylactic shock.
The first thing you need to do is to stay calm. If you panic, it will not hinder your ability to help them and may cause them to panic also. Try to find out if it is indeed the poinsettia which has caused the problem. If they are having a severe reaction, it is unlikely. When dropped leaves or parts of the plant have bite marks can be seen, it is more likely.
If you are sure the dog has eaten poinsettia leaves, you should do the following:
- Allow the dog to vomit when possible. Since ingestion of the material is causing the symptoms, we need to let them vomit up the material when possible. Making them vomit is only recommended if it is an emergency since doing so can cause further harm. If you take them to a veterinarian, the vet may induce vomiting clinically.
- If your dog's skin or eyes have been exposed to the sap of the poinsettia plant, you should wash the area with plenty of fresh water. Consult your veterinarian to see if they need any further medication in the form of antiallergics, eyedrops or antiseptic treatments.
- To combat dehydration, provide your dog with water to drink and never self-medicate. Only the veterinary professional is able to determine which medicines are the most appropriate.
Before treatment can be carried out, the veterinarian will need to evaluate the function of the dog's kidneys to rule out possible complications. You will need to inform the vet of their medical history as well as the circumstances which have led to the poisoning. The faster you act, the better the prognosis.
Poinsettia is only one type of plant which can prove toxic to dogs. Take a look at our video below to see some of the most common:
This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.
If you want to read similar articles to My Dog Ate Poinsettia Leaves - Poinsettia and Dogs, we recommend you visit our First aid category.
1. ASPCA. (n.d.). Poinsettia.