Are Poinsettias Poisonous to Cats and Dogs?

Robert Pavlis

Everyone loves poinsettias at Christmas but are they toxic to cats and dogs? What about people? Many websites include the plant on their “toxic Christmas plants list.

cat sitting beside a poinsettia plant
Poinsettias are mildly toxic to cats and dogs, source: Killarney Cat Hospital

Toxicity of Poinsettias

When looking at toxicity it is important to look at each species separately since cats, dogs and humans can react differently to a toxic substance, although in this case they are similar. Dose is also important. How poisonous are poinsettias?

  • Cats – skin irritant with very low toxicity
  • Dogs – skin irritant with very low toxicity
  • Humans – skin irritant with very low toxicity

This plant is part of the Euphorbia family and all plants in this group have a white milky sap that contains a chemical called diterpenoid euphorbol esters. The sap is toxic in both fresh and dried plants. Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) is less toxic than many Euphorbia spp. and rarely causes problems beyond mild gastrointestinal signs. It is less toxic than lillies and amaryllis. The College of Veterinary Medicine at Washington State University confirms that “poinsettias have received bad publicity in the past, but they are not very toxic to pets. They do contain a milky sap that can irritate the mouth, but symptoms are usually mild if they develop.” The SPCA says signs includeirritation to the mouth and stomach, sometimes causing vomiting, but generally over-rated in toxicity”. 

Are Poinsettias Poisonous to Cats?

The toxicity is mild but if ingested they can cause digestive upset, such as vomiting, drooling, or rarely, diarrhea may be seen. If exposed to skin, it may cause redness, swelling, and itchiness. Eye exposure may cause reddening of the eye. There is no “cure” for poinsettia exposure and medical attention is rarely required. The symptoms go away on their own in a few days.

Microbe Science for Gardeners Book, by Robert Pavlis

Are Poinsettias Poisonous to Dogs?

They are mildly toxic to dogs and symptoms are rarely serious. Ingestion of large amounts can lead to vomiting, drooling or diarrhea. This is more likely with puppies that seem to like to chew on new things. Older dogs generally leave the plant alone. Skin irritation can occur around eyes and the mouth. Symptoms will subside on their own. Medical attentions is rarely required.

Are Poinsettias Poisonous to Humans?

I have discussed this in detail in another post called Are Poinsettia Poisonous? “The POISONDEX information database, the main poison resource in the US, says that a 50 pound child would need to eat 500 poinsettia leaves to become poisoned.” The plant has very low toxicity in humans. Some people have a skin sensitivity to euphorbias and may develop a rash from the sap.

Are Poinsettias Poisonous to Birds?

I’ve checked to see if this is a problem and the plant does appear on several lists of poisonous plants for birds, but none of these are from reputable sources. A few sites say that the plant has low toxicity for birds.

Common Toxic Christmas Plants

Here are some common holiday and Christmas plants that are dangerous to pets:

  • Peace lily
  • Calla lily
  • Amaryllis
  • Lily of the Valley
  • Autumn Crocus
  • Giant Dracaena
  • Palm Lily
  • Holly (the berry and leaf)
  • Mistletoe

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Robert Pavlis

I have been gardening my whole life and have a science background. Besides writing and speaking about gardening, I own and operate a 6 acre private garden called Aspen Grove Gardens which now has over 3,000 perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees. Yes--I am a plantaholic!

1 thought on “Are Poinsettias Poisonous to Cats and Dogs?”

  1. In many (but far from all) cases, poisonous plants taste bad. I’m not about to taste a poinsetta leaf or bract to check, but this may be further protection.

    Reply

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