John Foster December 12, 2014

In the first of these articles we look at the festive plants used to decorate the home and which of them should be avoided, absolutely avoided or put safely out of touch.

As a general rule anything evergreen will have some ability to poison our pets; so here are the green ones and others not-so-green to recognise as hazards. The signs of poisoning are similar from one unwelcome plant species to another; most involve gastro-intestinal signs that can progress to acuteness according ot the ingested does, thence to other organ failures and even collapse and death.

Members of the Liliaceaa (Lily) family are almost universally poisonous, with cats especially sensitive to the pollen that's easily transferred from the plan to the fur and licked off. The remainder of the plant, its leaves and steam are acutely toxic to dogs on chewing. The lesser toxic plant in the group is the so-called 'spider plant' producing mild gastric signs in cats on eating.

Members of the Ilex (Holly) family once eaten give rise to a range of signs; it only takes a couple of berries to severely affect the hart and intestinal system.

Members of the Viscaceae (Mistletoe) family is especially toxic to pets, with only a small amount - berries or leaves - to bring on serious and rapid poisoning signs.

The next ones should definitely not be given house room but are sometimes added to Christmas wreaths: Yew, Laurel and Oleander are extremely toxic and if eaten even in small part can be fatal in the face of there being no available treatment.

Although the potential list of harm is almost limitless a couple more should be mentioned:

Pot pourri is a favourite gift at this time and some of its content can be both irritating to the intestinal tract and slow to clear while the hyper-dried material softens enough to be voided.

The dying Christmas tree sheds needles that tend to be both annoying to clean up - and should be regularly - and irritating if eaten, probably more by accident than by design. Cats are great ones for eating the tree decoration foil strips; rarely do they give rise to any significant intestinal signs - except for trailing them from their rear ends after intestinal passage. No laughing matter; as far as we know the cat is not offering its own festive decoration!

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Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn't possible, supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.



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