picture of cat playing with christmas ornament on tree

Holiday Hazards for Pets

The spirit of Christmas is here. But, along with this, we unwittingly bring some things into our homes that are potential hazards to our pets. The top reason pets end up in an emergency clinic on Christmas day is from eating foreign objects or foods that are toxic to their system. So, we want all parents to know what to look out for this time of year.

1. Christmas Trees

Who does not love the smell of the fresh-cut pine of the Christmas Tree? Unfortunately, live Christmas trees are more dangerous to pets than artificial trees. The pine needles are toxic to pets. Water from the tree stand is poisonous as well. Additionally, pine needles can puncture vital organs if they eat them. Here are some links on how to proof your tree against pets:

2. Toxic Plants

Plants can also liven up your home during the holidays. But if you have pets, please be careful which ones you choose as many of the popular ones are toxic to pets.

Some holiday plants toxic to pets:

  • Poinsettia
  • Holly
  • Mistletoe
  • Lilies & Daffodils
  • Amaryllis (Belladonna)

For a more extensive list of toxic plants, visit the ASPCA.org website.

Non-toxic alternatives:

  • Red roses instead of Poinsettias
  • White Orchids instead of Lilies
  • Achira instead of Amaryllis
  • Autumn instead of Holly

3. Tinsel

Tinsel can result in severe damage to your pet’s intestines if ingested. For example, when a cat swallows something stringy it can wrap around the base of the tongue or anchor itself in the stomach. When this happens, the object cannot pass through the intestines. As the intestines contract and move, this tinsel or other objects like it (string, yarn, ribbon, etc.) can slowly saw through the tissue, resulting in severe damage to your pet’s intestinal tract. Ultimately, pets run the risk of severe injury or rupture of their intestines, and treatment involves expensive abdominal surgery.

If you suspect your pet has eaten tinsel, string, ribbon, etc., call your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline for treatment advice.

4. Electric Shock

Maybe your pet does not usually chew on electrical cords. But when you put up your Christmas tree, this is something new. Electrical shock may occur when a pet bites down on an electrical cord causing deep cuts or tears in their tongue and possible death. Check your holiday lights for signs of fraying or chewing, and use a grounded three-prong extension cord as a safety precaution. Cover your cords so your pet cannot get to them. You can purchase cord protectors such as the Chewsafe Cord Cover or PetCords Dog & Cat Protector.

5. Chocolate

Chocolate is poisonous to pets. It contains a substance called theobromine. Dark chocolate is the worst as it contains a greater concentration of theobromine. Dogs especially are attracted to the smell of chocolate treats. Do not leave any chocolate treats in reach of pets! Especially do not hang chocolate treats on your Christmas tree where your pet may get access to them.

6. Xylitol

Xylitol has become a popular sugar substitute. But it is very toxic to pets and can cause death. If you use it, be very, very careful to keep it and any foods containing Xylitol away from pets. Some non-toxic alternatives are erythritol, stevia, and sucralose.

7. Turkey Bones

Cooked bones are dangerous for pets.  They can splinter and cause severe internal damage. Turkey bones from table scraps are off-limits, along with any other cooked bones. If you want to treat your pet, better to give them a treat made specifically for your pet. That will keep them out of any danger.

Have fun decorating and preparing your holiday meals. Just make sure to follow the above cautions to keep your pets safe.

We wish you a happy holiday!

Dr. Tammy Stevenson
Advanced Pet Care Clinic