Are Hellebores Poisonous to Dogs?

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Christmas should be a joyous time -- not a holiday you want to spend in the veterinary emergency hospital with your dog. That's where you could end up if you unknowingly festoon your home with hellebore, also known as the Christmas rose, and your canine pal consumes some of this plant.


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While it's best known by nicknames, like the Easter rose and Lenten rose, hellebore's scientific name is Helleborus niger, and it's in the ranunculaceae family. Hellebore is an evergreen producing a few large, white flowers during its blooming season from December to April. The entire plant, roots and all, can cause a toxic reaction if a dog eats it. According to Pet Poison Helpline, hellebore contains poisonous glycosides and bufadienolides, both of which affect the heart.



Suspect hellebore poisoning if your dog experiences excessive salivation, appetite loss, vomiting, diarrhea or appears to suffer from abdominal pain. Affected dogs also become depressed and lethargic. The plant is also toxic to cats, with similar symptoms. Take your pet to the vet immediately for treatment.


Your vet will probably treat your dog by administering activated charcoal and atropine, a medication used to treat cardiac problems.


By Jane Meggitt

ASPCA: Hellebore
Cornell University Department of Animal Science: Helleborus Niger - Christmas Rose
Pet Poison Helpline: Christmas Rose

About the Author
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.