Are Holly Berries Poisonous to Dogs?

Dr. Monica Sterk

Dec 9, 2020

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With the holiday season rolling around once again, many pet owners find themselves worrying about whether or not their holiday décor could pose a threat to the furry members of their family. Unfortunately, there are many types of holiday decorations and other items that can and often do cause emergencies in pets of all types.

Information about Whether Holly Berries Are Poisonous to Dogs

One of the most common concerns, however, centers around holly berries. Pet owners frequently ask whether or not holly berries or the whole holly plant might be poisonous to dogs, and if so, what to do about this situation.

Read on to learn more about why holly berries are poisonous for dogs.

Holly Berries are Toxic

To put it simply, the berries of the holly plant are toxic—not only to dogs, but also to other animals and children. These berries remain attached to the plant while it’s still fresh, but as the plant dries, the berries loosen and may fall off of your décor and onto the floor. From there, your dog can easily pick them up if he/she happens to mistake them for a treat. This is one of the reasons why holly decorations should be kept outside, if used at all.

If your dog does ingest the berries of a holly plant, he/she is likely to recover, but it’s going to be a difficult recovery. Older dogs, dogs with underlying health conditions, and young puppies may be more at risk for fatal reactions from holly poisoning, but all dogs are going to suffer at least some of the physical responses caused by this plant.

Symptoms of Holly Poisoning 

It’s important to know the signs of holly poisoning so you can determine whether your dog ate any poisonous holly berries.

Symptoms of holly poisoning include:


If your dog is drooling considerably more than is normal for him/her, even at rest, this is a good indication he/she has eaten something they shouldn’t, and it may have been holly berries.

Bleeding in the Mouth

The berries themselves don’t usually cause this symptom. It is most commonly caused by the prickly, sharp leaves of the holly plant when your dog tries to chew on them.

If you notice your dog’s mouth bleeding slightly, this may be a sign he’s/she’s been chewing on the holly.

Vomiting and Diarrhea

These two symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea generally both occur, although some dogs may only experience one or the other. You may see the berries in the vomit or diarrhea, but you may not, depending on how long it’s been since your dog ingested them.

Loss of Appetite or Lack of Energy

Both of these problems come from the nausea associated with dogs eating poisonous holly berries as well as from excessive vomiting and diarrhea. If your dog exhibits these symptoms along with any of the others listed here, you can usually assume he/she has eaten holly berries and may need medical attention.

Severe Symptoms

Rarely, dogs may have very severe reactions and could suffer seizures or fall unconscious due to holly poisoning. This is not very likely, but you should keep an eye on your dog just in case.

Treatment and Recovery for Dogs Who Ingest Poisonous Holly Berries

Most dogs will recover easily from holly poisoning, even if it takes a little time (and a lot of vomiting) to do so. However, some dogs may suffer extreme dehydration due to the vomiting and diarrhea present as part of this issue.

If your dog is extremely dehydrated and can’t keep down water when he/she tries to drink, they need to see an emergency vet. Holly poisoning itself is not usually fatal, but dehydration sometimes can be.

Your vet may give you instructions over the phone if you contact the office with questions about your dog’s holly poisoning. As long as dehydration is not a concern, your dog will likely just need to stay at home and rest in order to get over this problem.

Be sure to provide plenty of clean, fresh water to encourage your dog to rehydrate.

Ways to Prevent Dogs from Eating Poisonous Holly Berries

If your dog ingests holly berries, do what you can to remove the decoration from your home moving forward. Prevention is the best course of action when it comes to this type of poisoning; you can easily decorate your home for the holidays without relying on holly berries.

Keep this (as well as your dog) in mind as you choose your decoration for this coming holiday season.

See an Emergency Vet if Your Dog Eats Poisonous Holly Berries

Now that you’ve had a chance to learn a little bit about the dangers that can come from having poisonous holly berries around dogs, you can use this information to rethink and plan your holiday decorations differently. Make sure to refrain from using holly berries when you decorate your home.

If you must use them, keep them outdoors and completely away from the reach of your dog—such as in a wreath on the front door.

Throughout the holiday season, it’s especially important to keep emergency vet contact information close at hand. This information can help you react efficiently if your dog does happen to ingest holly berries or any other toxic holiday items.

At VEG, all of our convenient locations are open 24 hours on holidays and some locations are open 24 hours a day, every day. We understand how curious dogs can be and how accidents can happen because of this. Our compassionate emergency vets are highly trained and ready to help your dog if he eats poisonous holly berries. 

We never want your dog to go through an emergency, but take comfort in knowing that our emergency veterinarians and team are here for you and your dog when you need us most. If you have any questions or concerns, always feel free to call any of our VEG locations to speak directly to a veterinarian.