8 Not So Merry Holiday Pet Hazards

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the winter holiday season is the busiest for North American veterinarians due to the fact that time-strapped and frazzled pet owners often don’t consider the dangerous and even toxic risks linked to these eight holiday animal hazards.

The holidays should be a time for festivity and cheer—for humans and pets—so let’s pinpoint a few not so merry dangers to help keep our furry friends safe this Christmas season…


1. Seasonal Plants

Poinsettias, mistletoe, holly, Christmas cacti, or pine and balsam boughs sure lend charming sights and smells to your home décor around the holidays. Often, friends and loved ones give holiday plants as gifts without ever anticipating the hazards they pose to our pets.

According to the journal, Veterinary Technician, all of the above listed plants and live décor can cause dog or cat toxicity, or poisoning, if they are ingested by your pet. Symptoms can include vomiting, gastrointestinal upset, drooling, diarrhea, a drunken appearance, fainting, seizure, and even death.


2. Tinsel and Ornaments

It might be cute when your cat bats rambunctiously at a holiday reindeer ornament on your tree. And your dog might look awful cute with a big red bow tied around his neck. However, consider that holiday decorations—like tree ornaments, wreaths, tinsel, and bows—can pose a serious threat to your beloved pet.

Think of the hazard a tiny bit of tinsel can cause when ingested as a snack. Bows, ribbons, tinsel, and chunks can all be gobbled up only to end up lodged in your cat or dog’s intestinal tract or even create a choking hazard.


3. Sweet Holiday Treats

It might seem like nothing to slip the family dog a few Christmas cookies. However, according to VCA Animal Hospitals, cookies and treats containing xylitol, a type of artificial sweetener, don’t agree with pets.

In fact, sugar-free candies and baked goods with xylitol cause blood pressure to plummet dangerously low in dogs. Symptoms of drunkenness, vomiting, dizziness, seizures, extreme lethargy, and even liver failure can result if your pet is poisoned by xylitol.


4. Chocolate

Irresistible for two-legged holiday revelers, chocolate featured in holiday baking, stockings, pot luck platters, and wrapped as gifts under the tree can pose a serious danger to your pets, particularly dogs. In fact, vets at the Animal Poison Control Center at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) say that this sweet holiday treat can cause dog poisoning, serious illness, and even death.

Absolutely no chocolate should be on your cat or dog’s holiday gift list. While bakers chocolate (or dark chocolate) is the most toxic for pets, consider that all chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine at some levels. If you believe your pet may have ingested chocolate, call your vet immediately.


5. Holiday Escapes

With all of your holiday guests coming and going, we often forget to keep an eye on curious pets. A swinging door met with new and excited visitors can result in the escape of a beloved dog or cat. Shy or skittish pets may also be overwhelmed by all the activity and run outside for peace and quiet.

If you plan to entertain guests over the holidays, particularly those not used to pets, put measures in motion to find your cat or dog in case they do escape.  Be sure that guests know to keep doors shut and watch out for pets at their feet. Also, ask your vet to outfit Fido or Fluffy with a microchip and/or an identification tag that contains your address and telephone number in case there is an escape.


6. Table Scraps

Look at Fido eying your turkey and mashed potatoes with his sad eyes. He’s so cute, a small nibble shouldn’t hurt, right? Wrong! Before you’re tempted to sneak your furry friend a little taste of your holiday feast, consider that many human table scraps can be upsetting and even toxic for dogs and cats.

According to the experts at Animal Planet, feeding Fido of Fluffy from the table can result in stomach upset, weight gain, and even encourage bad or aggressive begging manners. Plus, seemingly innocent foods—such as garlic, turkey bones, milk, raisins, onions, mints with Xylitol, and chocolate—are linked to serious toxic reactions in our four-legged friends.


7. Topping Christmas Trees

It’s difficult to keep your curious pooch or kitten away from a cool new decoration in your home. When we put up our Christmas tree, our cat is constantly hiding under the branches, batting at any low hanging ornaments, and he even once tried to climb the trunk. Dogs, on the other hand, may sniff, scratch, or even attempt to drink water from the basin, which can cause serious digestive distress.

Either way the chances of the tree toppling over on your curious pet is likely. To secure your tree properly, tie a wire around the trunk of the tree, near the top. This extra security measure should prevent the tree from coming down on a curious dog, climbing cat, or even a grabby toddler.


8. Alcohol

You’re probably wondering what kind of pet owner finds it funny to get their cat or dog drunk! According to the Pet Poison Hotline, cats or dogs can become inebriated without you even realizing the source. For instance, Fido might go to town on a rum-soaked fruitcake or Fluffy might help herself to raw cookie dough, which contains fermented yeast and produces carbon dioxide and alcohol.

Alcohol in any form can make your cat or dog extremely ill and can even cause severe alcohol poisoning. Intoxicated pets may vomit, appear drunk or confused, experience diarrhea, seizures, and even respiratory failure.



Emily Lockhart

Emily Lockhart is a certified yoga instructor and personal trainer. She believes that being healthy is a lifestyle choice, not a punishment or temporary fix to attain a desired fitness or body image goal. Anna helps her clients take responsibility for their own health and wellness through her classes and articles on ActiveBeat.