Are Holly Berries Poisonous To Dogs?

The holly plant is quite popular during Christmas as it is used for decoration. It is a seasonal plant that produces red, black, yellow, or blueberries. The vibrant colors of the berries can tempt your dog into having some.

While birds can eat holly berries and get nutritional benefits, they are not dog-friendly. The holly plant contains toxins that will cause various health issues to your dog.

This article will educate you more about holly berries and the repercussions of canine consumption of the fruit.

Holly Berries And Dogs

Berries from the holly plant are toxic to dogs, other animals, and children. If you are a pet owner and have the plant in your home during the festive seasons, you should take protective measures so that none of your pets consumes them.

The berries on the plant remain attached to it while it is still fresh. The fruit loosens and falls off as time passes, and the plant dries up. Once the berries are on the floor, your furry friend can easily eat them.

The plant’s toxicity will range from mild to severe based on your dog’s age, size, and breed. Though your pooch will experience significant discomfort after consumption, with quick treatment, they will have a full recovery. For older dogs with underlying health conditions, the results of them consuming holly berries can be fatal.

Related: What Berries Can Dogs Eat?

Symptoms Of Holly Berry Poisoning

All canines that consume holly berries will suffer at least one of the following symptoms if they have a generous portion. Knowing the symptoms associated with holly poisoning is essential to determine if your furry friend ate some accidentally. The symptoms include:


This is a common sign associated with holly berry poisoning. If your pooch is drooling more than usual even when resting, they have probably eaten the berries – if you have the decorative holly plant in your home. Usually, excessive drooling in dogs indicates that they have consumed something that is not safe for them.

Lack Of Energy And Appetite

If your dog lacks interest in food or has less energy for regular physical activities, it indicates something is wrong with them. Both signs come from your dog having nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If your dog shows the signs above, consult a vet immediately.

Stomach Upset

Consumption of holly berries by dogs will lead to stomach upset. Their systems are not designed to metabolize the fruit; hence they will experience abdominal discomfort after eating them. Vomiting and diarrhea will generally occur, and you will notice the berries come out through one or both means.

Bleeding Mouth

While your dog is eating holly berries, they may decide to have a taste of the leaves also out of curiosity. The sharp leaves of the plant will cause bleeding when your furry friend chews on them.

Causes Of Holly Berry Poisoning In Dogs

The holly plant contains several chemicals and compounds that are naturally occurring and toxic to canines. They include:

  • Theobromine
  • Tannins
  • Rutin
  • Quinic acid
  • Caffeine
  • Caffeic acid

Every part of the plant is toxic, including the berries, stems and leaves. You should, therefore, ensure that any falling debris from the plant is swept off the floor and properly disposed of.

Types Of Holly Plants

The holly berry plant belongs to the ilex family, with around 400 to 600 species. All the species contain chemical toxins for most pets. Some varieties of plants used for seasonal decorations include:

Japanese Holly

It is a popular bonsai plant in China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. This type of holly plant is popularly known as the box-leave holly. The plant’s leaves are dark green, and the berries are black and glossy.

English Holly

The holly plant has bright red or yellow berries, and its leaves are shiny with a leathery feel. The plant is native to northwest Africa and western and southern Europe. Other names associated with the plant type are Charismas holly and European Holly.

American Holly

The plant originates from the south-central and eastern parts of the United States of America. Its berries are bright red, and the leaves are less shiny than the English holly plant.

Related: Plants Poisonous To Dogs

Diagnosis Of Holly Poisoning

The symptoms of holly poisoning tend to show almost immediately after consumption. Drooling and pawing will be the first indication that your dog has ingested something that is not meant for them. If the number of berries is minimal, the symptoms will not be more than that.

Holly berries will cause gastrointestinal issues half an hour after consumption. If your dog is healthy, gastrointestinal issues may delay. Your vet will advise you on the proper treatment procedure and, in extreme cases, will recommend you visit a clinic after consultation. Blood count and biochemistry profile will be done to address the toxins ingested.

Treatment Of Holly Poisoning

Many cases of holly berry poisoning can be treated at home. However, before you take the initiative to offer home remedies to your furry friend, always contact a vet to determine the best treatment plan depending on the amount consumed. The signs and symptoms your dog exhibits and their previous medical history will determine if they must be treated at home or in the clinic.

The first step in treating your canine from holly poisoning is removing all the plant materials in their mouth to prevent further damage from ingesting the irritant. Provide cold, clean water to ease mouth pain and to replace lost fluids from diarrhea and vomiting.

When admitted to a clinic for treatment, supportive therapy will be applicable. Your dog will be administered IV fluid to combat dehydration and electrolyte imbalance in their bodies. Though holly berry poisoning is rarely severe enough to require gastric irrigation, your dog may need activated charcoal to absorb toxins.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know the dangers of the holly plant to your dog, ensure that you safeguard your pet when making seasonal decorations. You can opt to use an imitation of the plant, so your dog does not have access to holly berries. If you choose to use the holly plant in your home, keep a barrier around it to prevent your dog from accidentally eating falling berries.