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Top Pet Dangers at Christmas

Top Pet Dangers at Christmas

Holiday Ornaments

Although they just look cute and festive to us, many decorations may just seem like fun new toys, or yummy new snacks to pets.  Decorations such as bubble lights and snow globes often contain harmful chemicals that are toxic if consumed. Glass ornaments will shatter and risk cutting paw pads or their esophagus if consumed. Homemade dough ornaments contain very high levels of salt which cause serious neurological abnormalities. Pets are also at risk for getting electrical burns from dangling strands of lights. Decorate accordingly and keep any potentially dangerous things up high where they are less likely to be accessed by your pet.


If you own a cat, toss the tinsel! It looks like a very fun shiny toy to your cat, but if ingested, it can result in what is called a ‘linear foreign body’. It can either wrap around the base of the tongue or anchor itself in the stomach, then while the rest tries to pass through the intestines, it slowly ‘saws’ through the tissues, resulting in severe, potentially life-threatening damage to the intestines resulting in a major abdominal surgery. Save your holiday bonus for yourself instead of your pet’s surgery, and keep tinsel, ribbon, yarn, thread, fabric, etc. out of reach!


Although they have a bad rap, Poinsettia plants are only mildly toxic. Far more worrisome are holiday bouquets containing lilies, holly, or mistletoe. Just one or 2 bites, or sometimes even just the pollen from lilies can results in acute kidney failure. Holly and mistletoe if ingested can cause injury to the mouth and intestinal tract from the spiny leaves, as well as other severe gastrointestinal side effects.


Most people know not to give alcoholic drinks to their pets; however, alcohol poisoning in pets is more common than you think. This is because alcohol can be found in surprising places! Rum-soaked fruitcake, or unbaked dough that contains yeast, result in alcohol poisoning and other problems. Rising dough will expand in the warm, moist environment of the stomach and can result in a bloat, which can then progress to a GDV (bloat or twisted stomach). Signs of this include vomiting, non-productive retching, distended stomach, an elevated heart rate, and weakness or collapse. Secondly, alcohol from the fermenting yeast is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream and affects pets quickly. Ingestion of alcohol can cause dangerous drops in blood sugar, blood pressure, and body temperature. Intoxicated animals can experience seizures and respiratory failure.

Holiday Foods

With the holiday season comes a delightful variety of baked goods, chocolate confections and other rich, fattening foods. However, it is not wise, and in some cases, quite dangerous, to share these treats with your pets. Keep your pet on his or her regular diet over the holidays and do not let family and friends sneak in treats. Foods that can present problems include:

  • Foods containing grapes, raisins and currants (such as fruit cakes, breads and cookies) can result in kidney failure in dogs.
  • Chocolate and cocoa contain theobromine, a chemical highly toxic to dogs and cats. Ingestion in small amounts can cause vomiting and diarrhea but large amounts can cause seizures and heart arrhythmias.
  • Many sugarless gums and candies contain xylitol, a sweetener which is toxic to dogs. It causes a life-threatening drop in blood sugar and liver failure.
  • Leftover fatty, meat scraps can produce severe inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) leading to abdominal pain, vomiting and bloody diarrhea.

When it comes to the holidays, the best thing a pet owner can do is to become educated on common indoor and outdoor household toxins and pet-proof your environment accordingly.

If you think your pet has been poisoned, contact your veterinarian or

Pet Poison Helpline at 1-800-213-6680

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