Christmas Hazards

As the holiday season approaches we are all busier than normal with all manner of things: cooking, shopping and decorating to name a few. How these changes in the house affect our fuzzy buddies may not be at the front of our minds. There are some pet specific things to consider when planning your festivities.

Food is a big part of the holidays. People gift boxes of chocolate Most people know that chocolate is toxic to dogs…but alas many dogs think chocolate is delicious. Keep those boxes of toxic deliciousness either high up or in a cupboard that you need thumbs to open. If your family is like mine there is a rich turkey dinner on the table and Christmas cookies and other snacks might be set out in bowls for guests. All of these can present risks to your pet. Highly fatty meals are a risk factor in dogs for the development of pancreatitis. Pancreatitis can range in severity from mild tummy upset signs, to severe vomiting and diarrhea that needs hospitalization, to death. We often see pancreatitis around the holidays and it isn’t always the pet parents that are slipping the dogs people food. Dog friendly (but not dog savvy) family and friends may offer food to your pet that could end up being harmful.  It may be safer to quietly crate dogs and keep cats in a basement or upstairs room with food water and litter boxes before a party begins. If you are hosting a large party it may even be less stressful and safer for dogs to be boarded for the night.

The introduction of new decorations and wrapped gifts can also be surprisingly hazardous to curious and playful pets. Many cats will climb Christmas trees risking falls and injury.  Cats love to play with and often ingest string or string-like items. The string tinsel is a common suspect for causing intestinal foreign body problems in cats – requiring surgery to remove. My own cat Winston, loves curling ribbon. I would venture to say it is his favorite food. He will sniff it out anywhere in the house. He will go so far as to jump up on high surfaces and will camp out in front of closets and cupboards awaiting his chance to snag some. Against this criminal mastermind all I can do is try to ban curling ribbon from the house.

Seasonal plants are common gifts and decorations during the holidays. I have listed some festive favorites here:

Poinsettias -not truly toxic but will irritate the mouth and stomach if eaten. The end result would be drooling, nausea and possibly vomiting.

Amaryllis – are frequently used as gifts but contain toxins that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, abdominal pain, drooling and tremors.

Mistletoe– eating Mistletoe can cause cardiovascular problems fortunately it usually only causes a tummy upset

Holly– Eating this may lead to: vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and lethargy.

For a list of other Christmas hazards have a look at

Wishing you a safe and happy holiday season.

Dr. Layton

About the Author

Dr Elizabeth LaytonView all posts by Dr Elizabeth Layton
Dr Layton graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College in 2005 and began work in mixed animal practice. Dr. Layton’s special interest is dentistry but she enjoys a variety of internal medicine and surgical cases.


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