Holiday Safety Tips

Holiday season is here with all the joys of family gatherings, holiday food and festive decorations. At our clinic this month we have seen chocolate intoxication, ingestion of Christmas tree ornaments and ribbons, and pancreatitis from eating large amounts of those fatty holiday foods! Here’s just a short list to remind us of some of the hazards of the holidays.


Tinsel, ribbons and ornaments Bright shiny objects are always interesting to dogs and cats, especially when they are “new”. An entire tree full of inviting objects is a recipe for disaster for a curious pet. Ingestion of tinsel or ribbons can become “linear foreign bodies” bunching and cutting through the intestine as the body tries in vain to move the string or ribbon through. Ingestion of glass ornaments can cause damage to the stomach and intestine leading to a perforation or obstruction. Any of these are life-threatening conditions requiring surgery for correction. Supervise animals around your Christmas tree at all times.


Cords seem to be particularly interesting to cats and young dogs. A bite through an electrical cord can lead to burns in the mouth and fluid (edema) building up in the lungs. If not treated this can lead to respiratory failure and death. Seek emergency care as soon as possible.


Most people understand that chocolate is toxic to pets. Unsweetened baking chocolate carries a much higher dose of the toxin “theobromine” than milk chocolate, but even normal milk chocolate can be dangerous in higher amounts. Clinical signs of chocolate poisoning include hyper excitability, nervousness, vomiting, and diarrhea and death. Inducing vomiting to empty the stomach is the first step in treatment but if the toxin has been absorbed your pet will likely need to be hospitalized for further treatment.


Contrary to popular belief, poinsettia is not specifically toxic. Consuming this festive-looking plant can be irritating to the mouth and stomach of the dog or cat that chews on or eats it.


The fact that there are several types of mistletoe makes it difficult to predict the clinical signs of poisoning. Some mistletoes produce only stomach upset while others may lead to liver failure or seizing. Consider mistletoe to be a hazardous substance and keep it inaccessible to pets and children.


Keep pets out of the kitchen during the hustle and bustle of the season. The last thing you want is for someone you love to get underfoot and get burned from spillage.


We all like to include our pets in Holiday meals along with the rest of the family, but try to keep in mind that sudden rich diet changes are likely to upset a pet’s stomach. Vomiting and diarrhea are not uncommon. If leftovers are of an especially fatty nature, the pancreas may become inflamed and overloaded. This condition is serious and may require hospitalization.

What's Next

  • 1

    Call us or schedule an appointment online.

  • 2

    Meet with a doctor for an initial exam.

  • 3

    Put a plan together for your pet.