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This information is provided by Provet for educational purposes only.

You should seek the advice of your veterinarian if your pet is ill as only he or she can correctly advise on the diagnosis and recommend the treatment that is most appropriate for your pet.

Holly is commonly found in homes during the Xmas festive season...but did you know it is potentially poisonous ?

The red berries (which are the fruit of the Holly plant) are highly toxic with only 20 berries being reported to kill a large dog. Signs of poisoning include vomiting and diarhoea and in serious cases weakness, collapse, coma and death. Dogs are most often the victims and children should be discouraged from playing with Holly berries in case they offer them as "treats" to pets or throw them for pets to chase. Dogs are most often poisoned with Holly, but a cat or other pet could also be poisoned if they ate the berries.

The toxins in the berries are :

  • Ilicine
  • Ilexanthin
  • Ilex acid
  • Tannins
  • Theobromine ?
  • Caffeine ?

Unfortunately there is no specific antidote although veterinarians may reduce the concentration  of the toxin by giving :

  • Emetics - to get the animal to vomit up the plant material - only soon after eating
  • Products to reduce absorption of the stomach contents (gastric adsorbents)
  • Intravenous fluids
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce the signs - eg corticosteroids
  • Anti-emetics if the vomiting is persistent


Updated October 2013