Pet Safety for the Holidays

Pet Health and Safety  •  Pam Karkow  •  Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The other day I heard a strange crunching sound in the living room and upon further investigation, discovered my Golden Retriever licking up the last crumbs of an ornament.  To be fair, the ornament looked like a cookie, had a pretty delicious cinnamon smell, and was hanging on a low limb of the Christmas tree.  But, I should have known better.

That’s the trouble with the holidays when it comes to our pets.  We get busy and we overlook the obvious dangers facing our furry friends.  So, let’s make a list of the things to be vigilant about so you can avoid any unnecessary trips to the vet this season.  I’ve narrowed it down to three areas to which to pay particular attention.

Christmas Trees 

  1. Tinsel and pine needles can cause intestinal blockage.  Oil from fir tree needles can irritate your dog or cat’s mouth or stomach and cause excessive drooling.  Vacuum or sweep around your tree daily.
  2. Christmas tree water can be lethal to your pet, especially if you are treating the water with fertilizer.  Cover your tree’s water reservoir if you have a live tree.
  3. Light cords pose a strangling and burning threat.  Do not to use lights on the bottom part  of your tree where your cat or dog can get tangled.  Secure any loose cords with electrical tape.
  4. Ornaments can cause choking and/or injury to your pet’s paws and mouth.  Check for fallen ornaments regularly, and do not not hang breakable ornaments where your pet can reach them.


  1. Holly, mistletoe, and poinsettia plants are dangerous to your pet if ingested.  While some holiday plants are not actually poisonous, they can still cause a lot of harm and distress if your pet eats them.  Poinsettia leaves contain sap that can irritate the tissues of your pet’s esophagus and mouth and cause nausea and vomiting.  Holly and mistletoe can cause excessive drooling and abdominal pain.  Skip these plants altogether, especially if you have a puppy or kitten, or place them somewhere your pet does not have access.
  2. Burning candles can pose a burn or fire threat.  Use battery operated candles or make sure to place candles out of reach of your dog or cat (and his tail!)
  3. Wrapping paper and ribbon can cause intestinal blockage.  Keep your wrapping station out of reach of your pets and pick up any discarded paper, ribbons, or bags as soon as presents are open.  It can be easy for your pet to get tangled up in the wrappings in the excitement of Christmas morning.


  1. Chocolate is toxic to your pet.  Chocolate contains theobromine, which is easily metabolized by humans, but processed more slowly in dogs and can build up to toxic levels your pet’s system.
  2. Grapes and raisins can be fatally toxic to dogs.  The most serious side effect your pet could experience from eating these two foods is kidney damage, but your pet may also experience vomiting and diarrhea, lethargy, tremors, and seizures.
  3. Alcohol is very dangerous to your dog or cat.  Alcohol poisoning can result in a depressed nervous system, hypothermia, and even heart attack. 

If your pet ingests any of the items above, be sure to call for backup.  Either get in touch with your vet or call Animal Poison Control.  The good news is, pet insurance can come to your aid in the area of foreign body ingestion.  PetPartners knows that accidents happen and will  cover up to 80% of your unexpected veterinary costs once you have met your chosen deductible.

Luckily, our ornament-eating pup  was able to stomach the foreign matter without adverse effects, but we may not have been so lucky.  The first thing we did (after cleaning up the bits of ornament) was to move all other enticing decorations higher.  How are you being proactive to keep your dog and/or cat safe this season?

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