holiday pet hazards

Holiday Safety Tips for Pets

The holidays are a time to make new memories with friends and family – preferably ones that don’t include hours spent in an emergency hospital worrying about your furry family member. With all the merriment and busyness of the holidays, we need to be extra cautious to keep our pets safe. Here are some of the common holiday pet hazards to keep away from pets.

Fatty Foods

What are the holidays without delicious food? Sharing a meal with loved ones is a special part of the holidays. Unfortunately, diagnoses of pancreatitis in pets peaks during the holiday season due to overindulgence. Foods high in fat like turkey skin, gravy, buttery foods, and other “people” food, can cause pancreatitis in pets, which is very serious and painful. Instead of indulging pets with scraps from the table, have some extra treats or toys handy to reward your pet.


Xylitol is a sugar substitute that is present in many sugar free gums, candies and recently has been added to several brands of peanut butter. Xylitol can cause very low blood sugar and severe liver damage in pets. Symptoms can include vomiting, weakness, depression, seizures, coma and even death, but some dogs show no symptoms immediately after ingestion. If you suspect your pet has ingested a sugar free product containing xylitol seek emergency care promptly.


Chocolate is a popular gift exchanged during the holidays. If you suspect a gift you’ve received contains chocolate, do not place them under the tree or where your pet can reach them. Common signs of chocolate poisoning include vomiting, increased thirst, diarrhea, difficulty keeping balance, muscle spasms, seizures, and coma.

Other common foods that can cause illness in pets include bread dough, grapes/raisins, macadamia nuts, coffee, garlic, onions, alcoholic beverages and moldy foods. If your pet eats any of these items, call your veterinarian or local emergency hospital.

Print and keep ASPCA’s list of “People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pets” in your kitchen.

Holiday Plants

Some of the most common holiday plants can be toxic to dogs and cats. Mistletoe and holly can cause upset stomach, vomiting, even fatal heart problems if ingested. The sap on poinsettias can cause irritation of the mouth and gums. Lilies are the most toxic of holiday plants, especially for cats. Even a small amount ingested (2-3 leaves) can cause renal, or kidney, failure.

Christmas trees should be tied and anchored securely to prevent them from falling over. Many hanging ornaments are made of fragile materials like glass and can shatter and cause injury to pets. Pine needles can be toxic when eaten by your pet. Make sure to sweep up any fallen pine needles frequently.

Learn more about Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants.


dog swallowed christmas ornamentASCS, we tend to see an increase in cases where pets require abdominal exploratory surgery because they’ve swallowed a holiday decoration. Here is a cautionary tale about the dangers of Christmas tree ornaments and your furry family members. It’s the story of Charlie Brown.

Charlie Brown is a former Canine Companions for Independence puppy, Reading with Rover facilitator, star of many commercials, icon of ASCS, and the beloved fur child of our lead technician, Teresa Casson.

charlie brown x-rayCharlie ingested a Christmas tree ornament and it led to an obstruction of his pylorus, the opening from the stomach into the small intestine. This obstruction did not allow for his stomach contents to empty into his intestines. Good grief!

Charlie was quickly taken to Animal Medical Center of Seattle to receive emergency care. Fortunately for Charlie, he did not have to undergo surgery and the ornament was removed through an endoscopy. Charlie Brown was able to enjoy the rest of the holiday with his family in good health!

Electric Lights

Electric lights and extension cords can lead to shock if your pets chew on them. Keep all lights and cords secured and covered.

Candles and Liquid Fragrances

Candles and liquid fragrances can sometimes attract pets due to the scents they emit. These should be placed away from where pets can reach to prevent accidents – or better yet, use flameless candles to maintain a festive atmosphere without the potential fire hazard of having an open flame.


Make sure all guests store their medications in a safe place that cannot be accessed by pets. Medicine should be in containers with child-resistant lids and stored in closed cabinets.

During the holidays, we see an increase in surgery for pets that have been hit by cars due to inattentive owners or guests. With all the visitors coming and going, keep your yard secure to prevent pets from running out.

Some pets may experience anxiety and become stressed when their home is full of strangers or their routines are disrupted. Create a safe place for your pet in your home where they can hide. Place their bed and some of their favorite toys in their safe place to keep them comfortable. You can also invest in a ThunderShirt to help with your pet’s anxiety.

Share this post with friends and family to keep all our fur friends safe this holiday!

Not only will these tips protect your pets, they just might save you some money. Nationwide pet insurance calculated the average treatment costs related to holiday hazards. Check out their “The Hefty Price of Holiday Pet Hazards” infographic below!

VPI Holiday Pet Hazards Poster

Want to print this infographic? Try this hi-res PDF version.

A happy and healthy holiday to you and your furry family member!

Posted December 20, 2018 by ASCS in Noteworthy, Pet Health with No Comments and tagged as , , , , ,

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