Keeping Your Pet Safe During the Holidays


Holiday Pet Health


As we get ready for the holiday season, it is important for pet owners to make sure that their entire family, including their pets, is safe and happy during the holidays. Here are some tips for keeping your pet safe during the holidays.

Plants Dangerous to Pets

Many decorative holiday plants pose a threat to our pets. If you normally decorate your home with any of these poisonous plants, be sure to place them in a safe place and out of reach of your pet.


Holly contains potentially toxic substances (including saponins, methylxanthines, and cyanogens) that when ingested can result in severe gastrointestinal upset. Symptoms include drooling, lip smacking, vomiting, and shaking the head.


Berries from the mistletoe plant contain polysaccharides, alkaloids, and lectins. When ingested in small amounts, symptoms could include vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, and abdominal pain. When ingesting in larger amounts, low blood pressure, abnormal heart rate, collapse, staggering, seizures, and death can occur.


The sticky substance secreted from the blossoms of the poinsettia plant can cause mild gastrointestinal symptoms such as drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Foods Dangerous to Pets

Many of our favorite holiday treats and goodies are toxic to pets. Always make sure that any holiday favorites that may contain toxic ingredients are kept in a safe place where your pet can not inadvertently reach them.

Grapes and Raisins

Although research has yet to pinpoint the exact cause, grapes and raisins are extremely toxic especially for dogs and can lead to kidney failure. This toxicity is well documented. Dogs of any gender and breed may be affected. Symptoms may include vomiting, lethargy, increased thirst and urination, abdominal pain, kidney failure, dehydration and loss of appetite.


Chocolate contains methylxanthines(caffeine and theobromine) which may cause serious health issues in your pet, depending on the type and amount consumed. Dark chocolates, cocoa powder, and bakers chocolate contains the largest amount of methylxanthines. Common symptoms of ingestion include vomiting, and diarrhea, but more severe symptoms such as hyperactivity, anxiousness, staggering, tremors, seizures, and abnormal heart rhythm have been observed.


Bones pose a serious hazard to your cat and dog because they can splinter when eaten and cause punctures in the digestive track or blockage. Cooked bones  are especially dangerous as they become brittle and can break into razor sharp pieces in the digestive tract and become lodged in esophagus, stomach or intestines. This requires emergency surgery in most cases to resolve.

Onions and Garlic

Onions and garlic belong to the plant family Allium. Plants in this species, which also includes leeks, scallions, chives, and shallots, can be toxic to pets when ingested. Toxicity to Allium plants comes from the oxidizing of an oxygen-transporting protein called hemoglobin in the red blood cells. This process can cause anemia in the pet. Symptoms of anemia include lethargy, weakness, blood in urine, decreased stamina, and pale or bluish gums.


Xylitol is an artificial sweetener used in sugar free foods and can be deadly to dogs. Because a dog’s pancreas is not able to process Xylitol properly, a rapid release of insulin occurs within 10 minutes to an hour after ingestion causing a rapid decrease in the level of blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Symptoms of ingestion include vomiting, lethargy, weakness, collapse, seizures, liver failure, and death.

Decorations Hazardous to Your Pet

Many seemingly harmless items can be a hazard to pet during the holidays. Let’s face it, most pets like to chew at some time or another. Many common holiday decorations can be harmful or even life threatening if ingested by your pet.

Electrical Cords and String Lights

Pets often like to chew on many things around the house. Electrical cords and string lights can be a serious hazard because of this and can result in electrocution, electrical short and house fire.

Tinsel, Ornaments and Other Decorations

Most pets are curious by nature, and when something new is put into their environment they will want to check it out. Tinsel, ornaments, and other decorations can be a hazard to your pet when chewed on or ingested. Tinsel, string, and ribbon can all cause dangerous bowel blockages when ingested. A curious cat or dog chewing on an ornament with metal could incur superficial cuts or dangerous internal injure if ingested.

In Case of a Pet Emergency

Contact your veterinarian, the Animal Poison Control Center(ASPCA) (1-888-426-4435) or the Pet Poison Helpline (1-855-764-7661) in the event that your pet comes into contact with a potentially poisonous plant or food. If you keep these things in mind while preparing to celebrate the holidays, then you and your four-legged friends will have a safe and enjoyable holiday season.

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