Christmas Rose Poisoning in Dogs


What is Christmas Rose Poisoning?

Christmas rose, or scientifically called Helleborus niger, is a seasonal, flowering houseplant that blooms in the wintertime. Due to the fact that this flowering plant is strikingly beautiful, many people display the Christmas rose during the season. Although it is attractive, it is highly toxic to canines and other animals. When ingested, life-threatening poisoning is rare, but if ingested in large amounts toxicity that warrants a veterinarian visit can occur.

All of the plants in the genus come from the family known as Ranunculaceae. Within the Christmas rose’s natural habitat, it blooms from the months of December to April. They are quite a few members of the genus known as Helleborus and each of them are quite toxic, yet vary in the amount of toxicity. The toxins that are found within the Christmas rose, or H. niger, include the glycosides hellebrin, helleborin, and helleborein. They also contain sapononsides and protoanemonine. When canines ingest any part of Christmas rose, from the root to the stem (and even the flowers) they will begin to exhibit symptoms in relation to the amount ingested.

Christmas rose poisoning in canines occurs when canines ingest any part of the popular holiday plant. Poisoning can vary from very mild to severe, depending on the quantity consumed.

Symptoms of Christmas Rose Poisoning in Dogs

The Christmas rose, or Helleborus niger, contains many poisonous toxins known as glycosides. These glycosides are known as cardiotoxins and bufadienolides. Symptoms of Christmas rose poisoning in canines include:

  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Drooling
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Upset stomach or diarrhea
  • Excessive thirst


Helleborus has a wide variety of species, and it is important to know the types of plants that are known as Hellebores. Types of hellebores, besides the Christmas rose, include:

  • Easter rose
  • Helleborus argutifolius
  • H. hybridus, or harlequin gem
  • H. foetidus
  • H. ericsmithii, or candy love
  • H. hybridus, or blue lady
  • H. viridis, or green hellebore
  • H. lividus, or lead-hued hellebore
  • Christmas cactus
  • H. orientalis, or lenten rose
  • H. purpurascens, or purple hellebore

Causes of Christmas Rose Poisoning in Dogs

The causes of Christmas rose toxicity in canines begins with the ingestion of any part of the plant. Once the toxins are in the body, the causes of poisoning are:

  • The cardiac glycosides known as bufadienolides (steroid) increase the force of heart contractions
  • The cardiac glycosides known as cardenolides affect the heart and kidneys
  • Both glycosides inhibit the enzyme referred to as Na+, K+-ATPase, which causes an increased amount of sodium within the cells as well as calcium

Diagnosis of Christmas Rose Poisoning in Dogs

If you suspect your canine has eaten part or all of a Christmas rose plant, it is important to take him to the veterinarian as soon as possible. Even if you are unsure of the type of plant, as in the plant being from the same species, take part of the plant with you. Unfortunately, it is difficult to make a definitive diagnosis of this type of toxicity. The veterinarian is highly knowledgeable of symptoms that are caused by poisonous plants. The veterinarian may do bloodwork, urinalysis, and possibly an echocardiogram to check the heart’s functionality and force of the contractions. The veterinarian may also induce vomiting to test the contents of the stomach for any poison. The veterinarian will more than likely ask you questions about the plants in your home and the chances of the canine ingesting the plant. Watchful canine owners may highly suspect their canine ate part of the plant by simply looking at the plant and any leftover remains.

Treatment of Christmas Rose Poisoning in Dogs

The treatment of Christmas rose toxicity solely depends on the amount ingested and the canine symptoms. Treatment is systematic as many canines react to the poison differently. Treatment methods may include:


The veterinarian may induce vomiting to rid the canine of the poison from the plant. This may also be done as a diagnostic tool as well.

Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is usually given after emesis to prevent any absorption of the toxins from the stomach as well of the intestine. It is very important that activated charcoal is administered as soon as possible for it to be effective.

IV Fluids Support

Fluids may be given to help the kidneys function properly and also to help them excrete the toxins through urination. IV fluids are also beneficial in helping the heart function properly and in preventing dehydration.

Recovery of Christmas Rose Poisoning in Dogs

The prognosis for Christmas rose poisoning is good if treatment began within a timely manner. If the canine suffered from severe toxicity, hospitalization may have had to occur, so the veterinarian would be able to continue to monitoring the canine’s clinical signs. Once your canine is home, the veterinarian will give you specific instructions on how to care for your canine. It will be important to monitor your canine and if you notice any new symptoms or behavioral changes it will be imperative to contact your veterinarian. For preventative measures, toxic household plants should be removed from the home. If you are unsure of the plants that are toxic, you may ask your veterinarian for a list of specific types.

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