The holiday season is filled with peace, love, and joy, but some traditions pose hazards to pets. During this busy time of year, you may be distracted, focusing on gifting, decorating, and hosting, and may forget to consider your furry pal’s wellbeing. Our Twin Maples Veterinary Hospital team shares a list of holiday traditions that can be hazardous to your pet, and we explain how you can help prevent your four-legged friend from having a veterinary emergency.

#1: Christmas trees and pets

Although the Christmas tree is often many families’ main attraction, pets may see them as giant toys plopped in the house for their enjoyment. Cats often climb the tree. Large jubilant dogs may jump with excitement and topple the tree, harming themselves, bystanders, and your home. If you decorate your tree with glass ornaments, their shards can cut your pet if they knock them to the ground. To help ensure your pet stays safe while your Christmas tree is up, secure the tree to the ceiling, wall, or a sturdy piece of furniture, decorate it with shatter-proof and nontoxic ornaments, and guard the tree base with a puppy pen to prevent pets from getting too close.

#2: Baked goods and pets

Baked goods are plentiful during the holidays, but unless they are made specifically for pets, they often contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs and cats. Common toxins in baked goods include the following:

  • Raisins — Raisins can lead to kidney failure in dogs.
  • Xylitol — This sweetener mimics sugar in the body, causing an insulin spike and subsequent blood sugar crash. For unknown reasons, xylitol can also cause a pet to experience liver failure.
  • Chocolate — Chocolate overstimulates a pet’s nervous system, causing problems with the heart, brain, and gastrointestinal (GI) tract, and can lead to death in severe cases.
  • Macadamia nuts — Macadamia nuts cause vomiting, diarrhea, and hind-end weakness.

Although not included in sweet baked goods, garlic and onions are commonly used in other holiday foods and are also toxic to pets. Do not allow your pet to partake in toxic holiday foods, and keep baked goods stored tightly in sealed containers out of your furry pal’s reach.

#3: Fatty foods and pets

Foods that are mostly fat, such as turkey skin or gravy, can cause a dog to develop pancreatitis, a painful inflammatory condition. Signs include vomiting, abdominal pain, lethargy, diarrhea, and fever. Pancreatitis can lead to serious complications, including multiple organ failure, blood clotting problems, and death. Avoid sharing table scraps with your pet and keep their diet consistent through the holiday season.

#4: Meat bones and pets

Meat bones are fragile after cooking, and extremely hazardous for your pet to ingest. As a pet chews a meat bone, it can fragment and splinter. If your pet swallows sharp bone shards, they could injure or perforate their digestive tract. In addition, large bone pieces may lodge in your pet’s intestines, causing persistent vomiting, sometimes accompanied by belly pain or fever. This condition requires emergency surgery. Rather than giving your pet turkey or ham bones as a treat, offer them a pet-safe dental chew.

#5: Candles and pets

Curious cats can reach just about any candle, and they can burn themselves if they rub against the flame or if they touch the melted hot wax. If your pet knocks over a candle, they can also start a fire, endangering everyone in the house. To keep your pet and family members safe, use flameless candles.

#6: Electrical cords and pets

If your pet is a chewer, electrical cords can be a major issue. A frayed cord can shock your pet and cause a potential house fire. Run cords in inconspicuous locations, such as behind or under furniture or along walls, and cover them with durable commercial cord sheaths to protect them from your pet’s teeth and claws.

#7: Holiday plants and pets

Poinsettia, mistletoe, and holly can cause drooling, vomiting, or diarrhea if your pet consumes a small amount. However, if they ingest a large amount of mistletoe, your pet can experience a drop in blood pressure, seizures, or death. Lilies are the most dangerous plants, causing cats to experience rapid kidney failure and death in many cases. Help keep your pet safe and use silk plant alternatives, or check the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants list before you bring home festive foliage. 

#8: Tinsel and pets

Tinsel, ribbon, string, and other linear items are dangerous for cats, because they are attracted to them and often want to bat, chew, and play with them. If your cat swallows any of these items, they can experience a linear foreign body in the intestines, which requires emergency surgery. If you have a cat, avoid tempting them with shiny tinsel, ribbon, and string during the holidays.

To help prevent your pet from experiencing a veterinary emergency during the holidays, be mindful of the hazards many holiday traditions pose. If your pet has a holiday mishap and needs veterinary care, contact our Twin Maples Veterinary Hospital team. If your pet ingests a toxic food, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center or Pet Poison Helpline. When our hospital is closed and your pet needs help, reach out to your nearest veterinary emergency hospital.