With the holiday season upon us, you may catch your parents smooching “under the mistletoe.” Traditionally, couples kiss under this decorative plant, which has light pink, oval shaped berries. But did you know that mistletoe is toxic to horses, dogs, cats and livestock if eaten??
The formal name for plants in the mistletoe family is Loranthaceae which can be found throughout the United States. Mistletoe likes to grow in deciduous (trees that shed leaves annually) hardwood trees, especially oak, and typically produces small flowers from May-July.
Mistletoe is a popular decorative plant around holiday time, but it grows year round and is always toxic (for a great resource on mistletoe, and other toxic plants, please visit HorseDVM here). Mistletoe contains substances that are toxic to cells or that can interfere with neurotransmitters. In horses, ingestion of mistletoe can cause colic, diarrhea, and in severe cases, death. In dogs and cats, gastrointestinal upset, vomiting, erratic behavior, cardiovascular problems and slow heart beat (bradycardia) and, again, death in severe cases. If your horse, dog, cat or other barnyard animal has ingested mistletoe, contact your veterinarian immediately… don’t wait!
If you must hang mistletoe in your home or barn, make sure it is out of reach of any and every animal. Remember that mistletoe can also have toxic effects on other livestock, such as cattle and goats. Keep it out of reach of curious cats or playful pups. It’s best to keep mistletoe out of your barn completely. Have a safe, happy and healthy holiday season!
Until Next Time!