Holiday Hazards and Tips to Avoid Them!

The holidays are upon us and it is a very exciting time of year. What is not so exciting is an emergency trip to your veterinarian due to the ingestion of a toxin! Below are some tips on how to avoid a toxin ingestion for your pet and what exactly is toxic!

The first suggestion is always be prepared!!

Make sure you know how to get to your 24/7 emergency veterinary clinic before there’s an emergency. Talk with your veterinarian in advance to find out where you would need to take your pet and make sure you are aware of hours/directions. It is also important to keep the local emergency clinic phone number and your routine veterinarians number near by (on your refrigerator etc.)

Another contact important to have is the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline: 1-888-426-4435 (A fee does apply.)

holiday hazards for pets

Keep people food away from pets. If you want to share holiday treats with your pets, make or buy treats formulated just for them. The following people foods are especially hazardous for pets:

Sweets and goods also should be kept out of reach. Not only are they too rich for pets; an artificial sweetener often found in baked goods, candy and chewing gum, xylitol, has is linked to liver failure and death in dogs.

Chocolate is an essential part of the holidays, but it is toxic to dogs and cats. Although the toxicity can vary based on the type of chocolate, the size of your pet, and the amount they ate, it’s safer to consider all chocolate completely off limits for pets.

Table food – including gravy and meat fat –also should be kept away from pets. Many foods that are healthy for people are poisonous to pets, including onions, raisins and grapes. During the holidays, when our own diets tend toward extra-rich foods, table scraps can be especially fattening and hard for animals to digest and can cause pancreatitis.

If you believe your pet has been poisoned or eaten something it shouldn’t have, call your veterinarian or local veterinary emergency clinic immediately. You may also want to call the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline: 1-888-426-4435. Signs of pet distress include: sudden changes in behavior, depression, pain, vomiting, or diarrhea, salivating excessively, belching excessively and or gas.

Consider securing your tree to the ceiling or a doorframe using fishing line this way it will not fall. Christmas trees can tip over if pets climb on them or try to play with the lights and ornaments. Cats are more prone to climb your Christmas tree so keep an eye out for that!

Although water additives are a popular way to keep your tree fresh, they can be toxic to pets. Never add aspirin, vinegar, or any other preservers if pets are present in the home!

Planning on gifting to your pets? Make sure you choose toys that are durable if your pet tends to chew heavily. Also ensure if you purchase any treats for your pet that they are the same brand as the diet you are feeding. Feeding treats that are outside of your pets normal diet could cause diarrhea and or vomiting. Pig ears, raw hides, and bones are NOT recommended for dog chews as they can be extremely dangerous. They can cause gastrointestinal issues and can be a safety hazard (choking, getting stuck in mouth, blockages etc.)

Christmas ornaments although great to look at can become dangerous. Ingesting ornaments is a reason for concern. With pets we worry about blockages or toxicity when thinking of ornament ingestion. Tinsel and other holiday decorations also can be tempting for pets to eat. Consuming them can cause intestinal blockages, sometimes requiring surgery. Electric lights can cause burns when a curious pet chews the cords. Breakable ornaments or decorations can cause injuries.


Flowers and festive plants can result in an emergency veterinary visit if your pet gets hold of them. Amaryllis, mistletoe, balsam, pine, cedar, and holly are among the common holiday plants that can be dangerous and even poisonous to pets who decide to eat them. Poinsettias can be troublesome as well.

 Liquid potpourris pose risks because they contain essential oils and cationic detergents that can severely damage your pet’s mouth, eyes and skin. Solid potpourris could cause problems if eaten.

Thinking about having visitors at your home this season? Consider your pets as visitors can upset pets. The noise and excitement of the holiday can stress them out. The most social butterflies can become nervous when overwhelmed with guests. The following tips will reduce emotional stress on your pet and protect your guests from possible injury. Always communicate with incoming guests and ask if they will be bringing any of their pets.       

Always have a separate set up for pet guests, allowing your pet to have their own space. Guests with allergies or compromised immune systems (due to pregnancy, disease, or medications/ treatments that suppress the immune system) need to be aware of the pets (especially exotic pets) in your home so they can take any needed precautions to protect themselves. If guests ask to bring their own pets and you don’t know how the pets will get along, you should either politely decline their request or plan to spend some time acclimating the pets to each other, supervising their interactions, monitoring for signs of a problem, and taking action to avoid injuries to pets or people.

All pets should have access to a comfortable, quiet place inside if they want to retreat. Putting familiar items like toys and blankets can soothe your stressed pet. Provide a room or crate somewhere away from the commotion, where your guests won’t follow, that it can go to anytime it wants to get away. Pet houses would be a great way to do this, or if you have an empty bedroom area.

 Even if your pets are comfortable around guests, make sure you watch them closely, especially when people are entering or leaving your home.  When incoming guests are entering your home, your pet could slip out and go missing or result in an injury. Identification tags and microchips reunite families. Make sure your pet has proper identification with your current contact information – particularly a microchip with up-to-date, registered information. That way, if they do sneak out, they’re more likely to be returned to you. If your pet isn’t already microchipped, talk to your veterinarian about the benefits of this simple procedure.

Clear the food from your table, counters and serving areas when you are done using them – and make sure the trash gets put where your pet can’t reach it. A turkey or chicken carcass or other large quantities of meat sitting out on the carving table, or left in a trash container that is easily opened, could be deadly to your family pet. Dispose of carcasses and bones – and anything used to wrap or tie the meat, such as strings, bags and packaging – in a covered, tightly secured trash bag placed in a closed trash container outdoors (or behind a closed, locked door).

Leaving for an outing? Unplug decorations while you're not around. Cats, dogs and other pets are often tempted to chew electrical cords. This is an obvious hazard. If your pet does chew on a cord, head to the nearest veterinarians office immediately. Always take out the trash to make sure your pets can’t get to it, especially if it contains any food or food scraps before leaving your home as well!

Traveling for the holidays?

Interstate and international travel regulations require any pet you bring with you to have a health certificate from your veterinarian – even if you are traveling by car. Learn the requirements for any states you will visit or pass through, and schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to get the needed certificate within the timeframes required by those states. Even Santa's reindeer need to get health certificates for their annual flight around the world.

Pets in vehicles should always be safely restrained and should never be left alone in the car in any weather. Proper restraint means using a secure harness or a carrier, placed in a location clear of airbags. Never transport your pet in the bed of a truck. Never leave a pet in the car unattended especially in cold temperatures.

If you’re traveling by air and considering bringing your pet with you, talk with your veterinarian first. Air travel can put some pets at risk, especially short-nosed dogs. Your veterinarian is the best person to advise you regarding your own pet’s ability to travel.

Pack for your pet as well as yourself if you’re going to travel together. In addition to your pet’s food and medications, this includes bringing copies of their medical records, information to help identify your pet if it becomes lost, first aid supplies, and other items.

Boarding your pet may be the best option for you during the holidays. Always ensure that the boarding facility you choose requires all vaccinations including Rabies, Distemper Parvo, Bordetella, and Canine Influenza.  Talk with your veterinarian to find out how best to protect your pet from canine flu and other contagious diseases, and to make sure your pet is up-to-date on vaccines.

This is the best time of the year to celebrate with your family (including your pets!) So enjoy this holiday season!

holiday picture with lights and dog