Poinsettias vs. Pets: Debunking the Toxicity Myth

December 4, 2023

Everyone knows the age-old tale of how toxic poinsettias are to pets. But are they actually?

In this Matlack blog, we’re debunking the myth of poinsettias and how toxic they are to you and your pets.

How toxic are poinsettias to pets?

Poinsettias have an unfair reputation for being very toxic to pets, when in reality their toxicity is relatively low. This isn’t to say that your pet can’t get sick from poinsettia plants, but typically poinsettia sap only causes mild symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and skin and eye irritation.

How many poinsettia leaves would a pet need to eat to experience severe poisoning?

Because of the low toxicity of poinsettias, most pets would need to eat upwards of 400-500 leaves to experience toxicity levels high enough to warrant concern. Fortunately, poinsettia leaves are bitter tasting to animals so most will not eat more than a few.

What are the treatments or antidotes for poinsettia poisoning?

There are no known “antidotes” for severe poinsettia poisoning in animals. However, due to the high amounts of poinsettia leaves needed to cause severe poisoning, most cases require little more than home treatment.

How did the rumor of poinsettia toxicity start?

The origin of this myth seems to come from the death of an army officer’s child in 1919 after they were found near a poinsettia plant and allegedly ingested some of its leaves. Rumors swirled, fueled by the fact that the child’s cause of death was never discovered.

Over the years, many studies have confirmed that the toxicity of poinsettias has been widely overstated. A 1996 study of over 20,000 people who had ingested poinsettia leaves found that 96% required no outside medical treatment, 92% developed no symptoms at all, and there were no reported deaths. These numbers are believed to be very similar in pets.

So, can I safely decorate with poinsettias?

Bottom line- have as many poinsettias as your heart desires this holiday season. Just make sure to display them out of reach of your curious four-legged friends!

And if you’re still uncertain, check out these articles from the ASPCA, the Pet Poison Helpline, and the American Kennel Club for more information.

Happy decorating!


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