Euphorbia pulcherrima, better known as the poinsettia, belongs to the Euphorbiaceae plant family and is typically present during the holiday season. Poinsettia plants can be toxic to both dogs and cats, although this toxicity is very mild and self limiting. They possess a milky white sap that contains irritating chemicals known as diterpenoid euphorbol esters and saponin-like detergents. When these chemicals are ingested, they are irritating to the mouth and stomach.
The most common clinical signs associated with poinsettia ingestion are:
- Decreased appetite
Treatment for poinsettia toxicity is mainly supportive. The first step is to remove all plant parts from the animal’s mouth and prevent further access. At home, pet parents can allow ingestion of small amounts of fresh water to help their pet rinse out their mouth. If vomiting persists after consumption of water, the animal in question should be evaluated by a veterinarian. Supportive care offered by veterinarians includes an injection for nausea and implementation of subcutaneous fluids, which help with hydration. These fluids are absorbed over the following 6 – 8 hours.
Poinsettia toxicity is mild and often resolves at home without need of veterinary intervention. In some cases, supportive care may be needed to stop nausea and provide comfort. Thankfully, this toxicity has a very good recovery rate and is easily treated.
If you are ever concerned about plant toxicity or unsure if your pet has been exposed, contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. They have an extensive library documenting plant toxicity for pets, and their toxicologist can advise you on recommended therapies and guide your veterinarian in their treatment.