Christmas Holly or English Holly Poisoning

Filed Under: Dogs, Cats, Poisoning

Christmas holly, or English Holly is a commonly prized holiday ornamental that may prove to be irresistible to your pets. Although there are two genera of holly, the Ilex genus, with its 29 species, are all toxic. The technical name for the Christmas holly is Ilex aquifolium.

The Ilex species contains several compounds that can prove to be toxic such as glucosidic saponins, methylzanthines (caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline) and a cyanogenic diglucoside. Toxic compounds may be found in the leaves as well as the berries of the plant.

Most of the clinical signs of poisoning in pets are attributed to the saponins, which typically cause mild to moderate gastrointestinal upset. Consumption of the Christmas holly may lead to excessive salivation, vomiting, anorexia, and diarrhea. Pets are often seen shaking their heads and may smack their lips. Gastric obstruction can be caused by the ingestion of large numbers of leaves and will result in more severe clinical signs characteristic of obstruction.

When poisoning is caught early, vomiting may be induced followed by the administration of activated charcoal to limit absorption of the toxic agents. Additional treatment when needed is symptomatic and supportive. Rinsing the mouth with water will help remove mucosal irritants. Withholding food and water may be necessary in animals with persistent vomiting. With severe poisoning intravenous fluid therapy may be required to maintain hydration.

References:

Peterson, Michael and Patricia Talcott. Small Animal Toxicology. 2nd Ed. Elsevier: 2006. Pp. 646-647.

Volmer, Petra. “How Dangerous are Winter and Spring Holiday Plants to Pets?” Veterinary Medicine. December, 2002. Pp. 879-884.

Topics: christmas, holidays, holly

Symptoms: diarrhea, hypersalivation, loss of appetite, vomiting

Similar entries

  • It is just a few short weeks before the Christmas holidays. Your best friend sends you a beautiful Christmas cactus to accent the season. Unfortunately your pets decide that the colorful flowers of your holiday plant are truly irresistible. Your dog, with the help of the family cat, uses the plant as a newly acquired play toy and disassembles the Christmas cactus while you are at work. Should you be concerned that some of the flat segments which comprise the Christmas cactus found their way into your pet’s stomach? Probably not!

  • Thinking of throwing out that poinsettia the florist just delivered since you have pets in the house? That is probably not necessary. Although poinsettia poisoning has gained a lot of press, they are not all that toxic.

    Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are also known as the "Christmas flower" or "star". They are a popular plant used as decoration around the holidays from November through December. The plant is actually a shrub and has brightly colored red, white or pink terminal leaves while the lower leaves remain green in color.

  • As much as we may like to kiss under mistletoe, we humans don’t usually eat it. But our pets may have other ideas.

  • The holidays are a joyous time for friends and socializing. We decorate our households, fix elaborate meals, bring trees and special plants into our households, and yet we pay little attention to what effect these new habits will have on those furred and feathered around us.

  • Think grapes may be nutritionally good for your dog? Guess again! Raisins and grapes may be part of a nutritionally complete diet for people but can result in acute renal failure in susceptible dogs. The consumption of 11 to 30 grams of grapes per kilogram of body weight will result in clinical signs of toxicosis, and around 32 grams per kilogram will result in renal (kidney) damage. The number of raisins required to induce poisoning will be even less, requiring a dose of only 0.16 to 0.7 oz of raisins per kilogram of body weight resulting in poisoning.