Why You Should Keep Poinsettia From Pets — and What to Do If Your Dog or Cat Eats It

Poinsettia can add a great pop of color be and especially beautiful decor for the holidays — but the plant might also be tempting for curious dogs and cats. After all, we pet owners know that our fur babies will get into just about anything. So what happens if your dog or cat does eats poinsettia? And what should you do to help? Here's what veterinarians had to say.

How Bad Is it If a Dog or Cat Eats Poinsettia? Is it Toxic?

It's not great — but just how bad depends on how much they eat and which part of the plant they eat.

"Although pets may get an upset stomach from eating a few leaves, generally speaking, they would need to eat a very large amount for it to prove toxic," veterinarian Dr. Heidi Cooley, DVM, of Banfield Pet Hospital in Vancouver, WA, told POPSUGAR.

Veterinarian Dr. Jessica Romine, DVM, of BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital in Detroit, MI, added that the poisonous part of the poinsettia is the sap (inside the stems), which is a milky white color. This sap has active compounds called esters and can cause gastrointestinal upset.

What Can Happen?

If a pet eats the sap, it can result in excessive drooling, vomiting and sometimes diarrhea. It can also cause contact irritation on the skin — resulting in itchiness and swelling — and sometimes on the gums themselves, Dr. Romine said. "Thankfully, it should not cause a systemic toxicity and is rarely life-threatening — typically unless a large amount was ingested and signs are persistent, it is usually self-limiting."

What Should You Do if Your Pet Eats Some of the Plant?

While there's not a specific antidote for poinsettia poisoning, "thankfully usually medical intervention is not needed," said Dr. Romine. If there is visible plant material in the mouth, a pet owner can gently try to rinse the mouth out. (She warns against inducing vomiting.)

For dogs in particular, if a dog vomits on his own, you can try offering a small, bland meal several hours after the last time he vomits to see if he can keep it down. Also, not allowing your dog to gulp down a large amount of water all at once and immediately regurgitate it back up helps too, she said.

However, if you're concerned about major ingestion, don't be shy about taking your dog or cat to your veterinarian or animal hospital. Dr. Romine said owners can also contact Pet Poison Helpline or the ASPCA Poison Control, where for a fee experts can provide advice.

Oh, and one final piece of advice: "Do your best to keep it well out of reach of your inquisitive cats regardless; it will be healthier for your pets — and your poinsettia," Dr. Cooley said.