Is Mistletoe Poisonous to Dogs and Cats?

by Rees on December 24, 2010 · 0 comments

in advice,All Posts,Animals and Pets

If your dog or cat ate mistletoe you might want to read this.

You may have heard that the common mistletoe plant is poisonous and this past week we had an incident at our home that prompted some further research on just how poisonous mistletoe is. Here is what happened.

At the Saturday market I am always on the lookout for anything to do with plants or gardening and about two weeks ago my eyes caught a mound of greens piled high on a vendors table. From a distance I thought if was just more Christmas garland but on closer inspection I found them to be big bundles of mistletoe. This mistletoe was very fresh and had large branches full of white pearlescent berries. We took some home, hung it up and I took advantage of it for several days.

Eventually, one of the small pieces came loose and my middle daughter found the remnants later, on the floor in her bedroom where Hercules, our 13 pound wonder poodle had eaten it for a snack. I wasn’t too concerned because I thought he would have to ingest a lot more to do any harm but daughter and I went into research mode and here is what we found.

Yes, mistletoe is poisonous to dogs and cats and it can be deadly, or more commonly, will cause other less severe symptoms. Technically mistletoe is a hemi-parasitic plant that doesn’t have roots like normal plants but instead attaches itself to the branches of trees and draws energy from the tree.

There are two general types of poisonous mistletoe that are sold for Christmas. The European variety is Viscum album and the common mistletoe in the US is Phoradendron serotinum. They have different toxic ingredients but both can do harm.

The European variety of mistletoe has oval leaves and small clumps of 2-5 white berries. The US variety has oval leaves but the plant is shorter and denser and the white berries usually form in clumps of 10 or more.

But how poisonous is mistletoe to dogs and cats?

Like I said earlier, yes, mistletoe is poisonous but common reactions are a bellyache, diarrhea and quickened pulse although death is definitely a possibility. The leaves are the worst but the mistletoe berries are poisonous too. Unless your pet has ingested a lot he should be fine but don’t take this lightly because in large doses it can really be a problem. Go see a veterinarian now matter how much you think your pet has eaten.

Oh, and don’t worry about Hercules, he is fine. He barfed once and we gave him some extra water and he was good to go but we were lucky.

In case you want to learn about other poison plants here is link to an earlier post on plants that can poison pets.: HERE

If you can’t reach your vet please call1-800-222-1222. US POISON CONTROL CENTER

Or here is the number for the ASPCA help line:

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center hotline at (888) 426-4435.

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