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  • Writer's pictureDotty Ann Harding

Holiday Pet Hazards

Written by DottyAnn Harding

OCPAW President & CEO


The Holidays are a wonderful season to enjoy so many things with family and friends, and our pets usually enjoy it with us. Here are a few reminders to keep our furry companions safe from dangerous foods, toxic plants, and changes in their everyday routines.

Food and Drink Hazards

Chocolate is toxic to dogs, the darker the chocolate, the higher levels of theobromine. Small amounts cause vomiting and diarrhea, while large amounts can lead to seizures and death. White chocolate in very large amounts can result in stomach upsets.

Raw Cookie Dough, which contains yeast, can cause stomach issues resulting in expansion leading to obstruction.

Grapes and Raisins, Just a few of them, could cause kidney failure.

Bones: Both cooked and uncooked bones are not safe to eat, as they can easily break and splinter, leading to problems such as mouth injuries, broken teeth, and gastrointestinal blockages.

Table Scrapes: Can contain spices that are harmful or are just too fatty and rich for pets, which could result in gastrointestinal upset or even pancreatitis, which according to PetMD, is high on the list for vet visits during holidays.

Trash: Dogs are notorious for getting into the trash, so be mindful of putting leftovers and bones in pet-proof containers.


Tinsel is tempting for cats to play with but can cause obstructions in the stomach and intestines if swallowed.

Snow Globes can actually be lethal as Jenny Dean, owner of Floppycats, a Ragdoll cat breed, says, “Many snow globes contain antifreeze so if your sweet kitty (or pup) knocks it off the countertop or coffee table, it breaks and then they lick the liquid (which is common with pets and antifreeze), they could go into kidney failure.”

Ornaments, Many of which have hooks and sharp edges that could cause cuts and perforations to pets that chew on them. Dr. Stacy Choczynski, vet expert at Pumpkin Pet Insurance, advises that holiday ornaments with an appealing odor or that resemble a ball or treat be avoided. “In terms of design choices, I would avoid tassels and strings on the edges of your tree skirt. For canine companions, you can use a bitter-tasting spray designed for dogs to prevent chewing. You may try a motion sensor spray deterrent for cats to keep your feline away from your perilous tree. In most cases, I recommend against any apparatus that will evoke fear. However, since the holidays are for a fixed duration and the tree is in a specific location, I feel comfortable using this spray boundary creator to help prevent injury and electrocution”.

Christmas plants, can be an issue for pets, so limit the festive foliage during the holidays.

Holly can cause pets to suffer nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea when eaten.

Mistletoe can cause GI upset and cardiovascular problems.

Many varieties of lilies can cause kidney failure in cats if ingested.

Although the toxicity of the poinsettia has often been exaggerated, it can still cause irritation to the mouth and stomach with the overproduction of saliva and sometimes vomiting.


Holiday lights, winter holidays bring with them plenty of lights and electrical cords, which can attract curious puppies and kittens. Care should be taken to reduce the risk of pets chewing on these cords.

Prevention and treatment tips for these hazards

Choose artificial plants or a pet-safe bouquet instead of tinsel and wreaths.

Be mindful of where you place electrical cords and outlets when hanging Christmas lights.

Dr. Marty Greer, DVM, JD, and Co-founder of Veterinary Village, has a key tip to alert pet parents to curious pups: “Bells can be hung on the lowest branches of the tree. The bells will jingle, alerting you to a nosy pet exploring the tree.”

Stress and visitor hazards Your visitors and extended family could not be aware of the precautions you take to keep your pet safe in a controlled environment. Your pets are at high risk with doors left ajar and gates not closed. There are so many incidents where pets, in a moment of not being monitored, get out and get into a harm’s way situation. When I have visitors, I keep my pets safe by being crated, gated or behind a closed door. Only when it is a relaxed, comfortable situation are they permitted to mingle and then be comfortable in their own space. Wishing everyone a blessed Christmas filled with God’s Peace and Love.

Did your pet get into something they shouldn’t? Call your vet or the ASPCA Poison Control (888) 426-4435 immediately for assistance.


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