Is the Poinsettia Plant Poisonous to Cats?
However much we may love our indoor plants, when we adopt a cat into the home, we have to accept there is going to be some collateral damage. Cats are curious by nature. They will often bat leaves with their paws or even knock over entire pots. Since they use their mouths to investigate objects, they can chew on plans and even ingest parts of them. The flowers can be particularly attractive. Few plants are as attractive as a poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) at Christmas time.
Unfortunately, there are plants which are toxic if ingested, inhaled or even touched. At oneHOWTO, we ask is the poinsettia poisonous to cats?
Is the poinsettia toxic to cats if ingested?
The poinsettia plant, sometimes known as a Christmas plant, does contain toxins which are irritating to the domestic feline if ingested. These toxins are called diterpenic esters and are derived from flavonoids, phorbol and euphorbones. They contain a milky liquid or latex inside.
If the milky substance reaches the cat's mouth, it causes irritation of the mucous membranes with which it comes in contact. First the oral cavity will be affected, then the pharynx and esophagus. It will the continue throughout the rest of the digestive system.
Is the poinsettia toxic to cats if touched?
Some plants do not even need to be ingested for the toxins of the poinsettia to affect a cat. When the cat comes into direct contact with the poinsettia plant, the milky latex can irritate their skin, especially their eyes. The red bracts are said to be the most potent.
Another issue is when the cat rubs against the poinsettia plant. The milky latex can attach itself to the cat's fur. Although it will not cause much harm on their coat by itself, the cat may ingest it when licking their fur for grooming.
What are the symptoms of poinsettia poisoning in cats
The contact of the toxic substances present in the poinsettia with the cat's eyes can cause problems such as:
- Ocular discharge
- Corneal ulcers
If these substances come into contact with the skin, they can produce:
- Itching in the affected area
If the poisoning is produced by an ingestion or bite of the plant, the symptoms in cats will be mostly digestive. They can be the following:
- Irritation of the mucous membranes
- Dysphagia (trouble swallowing)
- Pharyngitis (inflammation of the pharynx)
- Glossitis (inflammation of the glottis)
When large ingestions of poinsettia occur, poisoning in cats could lead to delusions, tremors and, in extreme cases, coma.
How toxic are poinsettia plants for cats?
It is true that the toxins in the poinsettia plant can be harmful to cats, especially if ingested in large quantities. Fortunately, the cat would need to ingest a large amount for it to cause significant harm. The amount is much more than the cat would likely ingest of its own accord. While cats like to investigate plants and may even chew on leaves or petals, it is unlikely they will do so with the poinsettia.
For this reason, a cat will not likely harm themselves on a poinsettia. We should remove the poinsettia plant from the cat's reach just in case, but it is very unlikely to cause a veterinary emergency if they come in contact with the plant.
What to do if my cat eats the poinsettia
If your cat shows any of the more severe symptoms of intoxication, you will need to take the, to a veterinarian. While it is only mildly toxic, it can be harmful if the cat eats a lot of it, if they have a specific allergy or if they have an already compromised immune system.
External contact poisoning
If your feline has contact with the eyes or skin of the toxic milky substance of the poinsettia, the treatments to follow may be the following:
- Eye contact: washing the eyes with warm saline and applying specific eye drops with some drugs such as atropine, antibiotics that prevent infections and corticosteroids (dexamethasone) if there are no ulcers.
- Skin contact: wash the cat and use antihistamines and antibiotics for a week if it suffers from dermatitis.
If your cat eats the poinsettia, there are no specific antidotes to deal with the toxins in the plant. The veterinarian may try to induce vomiting, use activated charcoal to absorb toxins or pump their stomach. They may be given fluid therapy to help their kidneys cope, but these are all unlikely scenarios and uncommon for poinsettia poisoning in cats.
If the above treatments are required, they will be prescribed and administered by a veterinarian. Do not give your cat any drug without sufficient cause.
Other poisonous Christmas plants for cats
Taking into account the toxicity of the poinsettia, it is important that you take precautions both with this plant and with other Christmas plants if you have cats. Other poisonous Christmas plants for felines include the following:
- Mistletoe: as with poinsettia, ut is not very toxic, but a large intake of the mistletoe plant can cause harm to a cat. You must place it in an area which is difficult access by the animal.
- Christmas tree (fir or pine): its leaves are rigid and pointed, so they can pierce the intestines of cats.
- Holly: holly is a very toxic plant for cats. Eating its berries can cause diarrhea and vomiting.
For more general information on helping your cat if they ingest toxins, take a look at our articles on how to treat a poisoned cat and why does my cat vomit?
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