Buddy & Porky’s Pet Health: Dangerous Poinsettias

Dear friends,

It’s time for our annual “Quit Picking on Poinsettias” column. The bottom line, in spite of what some websites and “experts” claim, they are not poisonous to humans or to pets.

In the early 1900s rumors began to circulate about the poinsettia’s supposed toxicity–some claimed the plant was poisonous if ingested. Then, in 1919 the poinsettia’s fate was sealed when a story circulated that a two-year-old boy died after eating a poinsettia leaf.

The story was soon revealed as untrue, but the damage was done, and the poinsettia fell out of favor in many households as a home decoration. Still, some stalwarts insisted that the winter flower didn’t earn this ugly reputation that it had been saddled with. After all, the plant is a much loved native of Mexico where it grows in the wild to shrub size. It has been appreciated there for its extravagant beauty for hundreds of years and has never been suspected to be poisonous.

In the 1970s, Ohio State University did a study for the Society of American Florists to come up with the toxicity answer once and for all. The study proved that the poinsettia plant was, indeed, not poisonous. They further concluded that if a 50-pound child ate somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 leaves, they would maybe suffer an upset stomach. (So no huge poinsettia salads, really.)

But to this day almost forty years later, people repeat the same untrue rumor about the plant being deadly poison. What is true is that the plants, when cut, can excrete a latex like substance that can cause skin irritation. So if you have a dog who is fanatic about chewing on things, you will want to put it carefully out of reach. (Just as you put every other thing in your house out of reach.) Still, you can bring a big old gaudy poinsettia home and do so with a clear conscience.

The holiday plants you really do need to be very very careful about are mistletoe, holly and lilies. All can be quite toxic. If you suspect your pet has ingested any one of those, call your veterinarian right away.

And speaking of the Holidays, the American Foundry (located at 246 West Seneca Street, Oswego) is hosting a party to benefit the Humane Society on Friday, December 23rd, starting at 7 pm. There will be music by the Cortini Brothers with vocalist Tom Ciappa, light refreshments and a cash bar. The price of admission? A donation for the Humane Society: some Purina Dog or Cat food, some clumping litter, some cash. Is that cool or what? Surely your shopping will be done by then and it will be time to chill out before all those relatives arrive.

The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter services and assistance, fostering and adoption of animals in urgent need, humane education programs, and information and referrals to animal lovers throughout Oswego County. Our office is located at 265 West First Street, Oswego, New York. Phone (315) 207-1070. Email:[email protected] Website: www.oswegohumane.org.