Have a Bright and Merry Holiday Season: Protect Your Pet From Holiday Hazards

By December 6, 2019 Blog

At Tej Dhaliwal Veterinary Group, we’re celebrating the holidays all month long.

Want a fun activity to do with your pet during the holiday season? Stop by South Etobicoke Animal Hospital on Friday, December 20, from 4 pm to 6 pm with your dog or cat to get a memorable pet photo with Santa!

And while you’re getting ready for the holidays and enjoying the festivities with family and friends, here are some potential pet hazards to keep in mind so you can keep the holidays fun and joyful.


Certain human foods can be dangerous—even deadly—for pets. Avoid feeding your pet any of these items:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Anything with xylitol (a sugar substitute found in some mints and other candy, nut butters, and baked goods)
  • Bones (raw or cooked, bones just aren’t worth letting pets chew on—they can break teeth, cut a pet’s mouth and tongue, get stuck in the throat, and even pierce the esophagus or intestine, which can be life-threatening)
  • Chocolate (of any kind, although the darker the chocolate, the greater the toxicity)
  • Fatty or salty foods (such as fat trimmings, turkey skin, bacon, or ham)
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Onions and garlic
  • Raw dough
  • Turkey or other meat that’s been seasoned (most turkey eaten around the holidays has been brined and/or contains butter and seasoning; a small amount of plain turkey with no butter, salt, pepper, or other seasoning is usually fine as an occasional treat for most dogs and cats—ask us if it’s OK to feed to your pet)


Remember that even the most normally well-behaved dogs and cats may not wait for an invitation to snatch up a tasty-looking treat from a countertop or off a guest’s plate during holiday gatherings. Warn guests to keep their plates out of your pet’s reach, and consider covering snacks and other food if it’s sitting out.

Ribbon, Tinsel, Twine, and Yarn

Long, thin objects like tinsel, ribbon, yarn, and even the twine used to truss a turkey for a holiday feast can pose serious, potentially life-threatening issues if a dog or cat swallows them. These “linear foreign objects” can get stuck in the stomach, become balled up in the intestine and cause a blockage, or even tear or saw through the intestine. 

Don’t wait! Contact us if your pet is vomiting, has abdominal pain or diarrhea, or if you know your pet has swallowed a linear foreign object. This is a serious, potentially life-threatening situation.

Holiday Plants

Although plants play a big part in the holiday season, some festive flowers and greenery may be better left out of your holiday decorating—or at least far out of your pet’s reach. The following plants are toxic to both dogs and cats:

  • Amaryllis bulbs (the flowers and leaves are less toxic)
  • Holly berries and leaves
  • Lilies
  • Nandina berries (nandina is also known as heavenly or sacred bamboo)
  • Pine (often used for Christmas trees and other decorations)

On the other hand, some holiday plants tend to be less of a concern:

  • Poinsettias aren’t actually very toxic to dogs and cats. The sap can cause drooling, diarrhea, and vomiting, but these flowers generally don’t pose a more serious danger to pets.
  • Mistletoe typically only causes similar mild digestive issues, although ingesting large amounts can cause much more serious problems in pets (including death). To be safe, stick to a single sprig, and make sure it doesn’t fall on the floor, where a curious pet might consume it.
  • Christmas cactus also shouldn’t cause more than mild digestive issues.

Even though some common holiday plants may not pose as much of a risk, it’s always a good idea to restrict your pet’s access to these plants.

If you think your pet has consumed something toxic, call us immediately. You can also call the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661 or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 (a fee will be charged).

Candles, Potpourri, and Essential Oils

Lit candles, simmering potpourri, and misting essential oils from a diffuser can all make homes smell wonderful, but you may want to think twice before using them if you have a pet in your house:

  • Candles can cause burns or worse if they get knocked over by an excited pet’s tail.
  • Potpourri may smell inviting enough to lick up, which can cause burns and poison your pet.
  • Some essential oils (tea tree in particular) can be dangerous for pets if they ingest or walk through concentrated forms. Although an oil diffuser isn’t likely to cause a problem for most pets, it can become dangerous if the oil is spilled or if your pet has any breathing difficulties.

At the least, keep these out of reach of your pet, unplug them when you leave the house, and consider limiting their use or using electric candles and plug-in diffusers instead.

Other Decorations

Unfortunately, a number of common holiday decorations can also put pets at risk:

  • Christmas trees should be secured to prevent pets from knocking them over during play or if they try to jump or climb on the branches.
  • Needles from trees, wreaths, and other greenery can irritate pets’ mouths and stomachs, and needles can potentially puncture the intestine or cause a blockage.
  • Water in tree stands can be toxic to pets, especially if it contains additives/preservatives.
  • Electric lights can burn or electrocute pets if they chew the cord.
  • Ornaments can cause problems if they break or are swallowed. If you display breakable ornaments, keep them toward the top of the tree or in an area your pet can’t access. Also be attentive with any ornaments that are made from food materials, contain small pieces your pet could choke on, or are soft (especially if your pet tends to think all soft toys are for him or her).

Be especially careful and attentive with holiday decorations if you have a puppy or kitten in the house and you don’t yet know what your new pet is most curious about or likes to chew on.

Happy Holidays

Don’t hesitate to ask us if you have any questions or concerns about pet holiday safety, and contact us right away if your pet got into anything that could be dangerous. At Tej Dhaliwal Veterinary Group, we want to make sure your pet stays safe and gets to enjoy the holiday season too!

Additional Reading

All accessed December 5, 2019.

Lifelearn Admin

About Lifelearn Admin

S. Fontana is a LifeLearn author.

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