Although this year’s celebrations may look a little different, the festive meals and twinkling lights remain a comforting reminder of the season. However, the season’s joyous nature can turn dangerous for pets. Avoid doggy dilemmas, cat-astrophes, and added stress by pet- proofing your holiday celebrations. Also, keep important numbers and addresses, including Mill Creek Animal Hospital, ASPCA Poison Control, and the closest animal emergency clinic, in an easily accessible location in case your mischievous furry friend encounters one of these 10 holiday pet hazards.   

#1: Sharing your plate with your pet

Begging pets know the look that will tug at your heartstrings and lay on the guilt. Resist the urge to share your holiday meals, treats, and sweets to avoid an unexpected trip to the veterinary emergency room. Holiday foods are typically rich and fatty, making them difficult for pets to digest. Feeding your pet from your plate can lead to gastrointestinal (GI) distress and inflammation, including pancreatitis, which is a potentially deadly inflammatory condition that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and dehydration. Never feed your pet the following: 

  • Onions, garlic, chives and leeks — Small amounts can cause a life-threatening anemia and red blood cell breakdown. Clinical signs, including panting, high heart rate, GI upset, and blood in the urine, may occur several days after ingestion.
  • Sage, spices, and herbs — These flavorings can be toxic, especially to cats, and result in GI upset or central nervous system depression.
  • Raw dough — Eating unbaked dough can result in painful gas or, in severe cases, intestinal bloating.
  • Casseroles — Most casseroles contain heavy cream or other milk-based products. Animals lack enough lactase, which is the enzyme needed to properly digest dairy products, and therefore can suffer from GI upset and diarrhea.
  • Chocolate — All chocolates contain the stimulants caffeine and theobromine, which can be deadly to dogs. Clinical signs include vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, elevated heart rate, and possible death.
  • Sugar-free treats — Xylitol is present in many sugar-free foods and some peanut butters. Small amounts can be toxic and cause liver failure, seizures, and death in some cases. 

#2: Alcohol in drinks or foods

Never share your holiday cocktails or cordials with your pets. Alcohol-laden desserts, such as fruit cake, or any drinks with alcohol are also toxic to four-legged family members. As little as one ounce can be deadly to a small dog or cat. 

#3: Pet-toxic plants

Holiday plants often play a prominent role in transforming our homes into a festive wonderland. However, many are toxic when ingested by our furry friends, especially lilies, which are severely toxic to cats. Eating only a small amount of any part of the plant, including the pollen and leaves, can cause drooling, vomiting, and decreased appetite, and can lead to kidney failure. In addition to lilies, ensure the following plants are out of your pet’s reach:

  • Amaryllis
  • Mistletoe
  • Balsam
  • Pine
  • Cedar
  • Holly 

The popular poinsettia plant was previously thought to be deadly to animals, but is no longer considered lethal unless large amounts are consumed. Still, the sap in poinsettia leaves is irritating to the mouth and throat, and eating the leaves will likely cause your pet to become nauseated and vomit.

#4: Christmas trees that could tip

Secure your Christmas tree in a stable stand, and try tying the tree to a ceiling or doorway with fishing line, to prevent the tree tipping and injuring pets. When putting up live christmas trees, never use water additives in the base, as many pets may mistake these toxic water stands for a new personal water dish. 

#5: Tinsel and other tree ornaments

Ensure that any tinsel is placed completely out of your pet’s reach. Tinsel is a common culprit for many cat emergencies, leading to intestinal blockages that often require surgical removal. Additionally, keep all breakable and small dangling ornaments out of paws’ reach to prevent injuries from broken or ingested decor. 

#6: Candles and pet-toxic potpourri

Ensure that wagging tails and sneaky paws never have access to lighted candles to prevent house fires or singed fur. Avoid using scented candles or potpourri that contain essential oils, especially these varieties. Their toxic effects include coughing, difficulty breathing, seizures, and possible death. 

#7: Wires and batteries that can be shocking to pets

Limit exposure to electrical cords and batteries. Chewing chords can lead to serious injuries, including oral burns and electric shock. Ensure your pet does not have access to batteries, which contain zinc and can lead to GI distress, anemia, seizures and death in some cases. 

#8: Pet costumes and sweaters

Ensure your pet is comfortable and not behaviorally stressed when dressing them in a festive sweater or costume. Costumed pets should always be able to move freely without any interruption in gait or breathing, and should never be left unsupervised. If dressing up is not your pet’s preference, a festive collar or bandana is a safe alternative. 

#9: Antifreeze and ice-melt

Cold weather chemicals such as antifreeze and rock salt can be deadly if ingested by pets. Always keep your pet on a leash when outside, and prevent them from licking or walking over treated icy areas. 

#10: Holiday stress and anxiety in pets

New sights, smells, and sounds can be stressful to pets. Avoid behavioral outbursts or accidents by maintaining your pet’s regular exercise and playtime routines. During meal and party times, designate a pet-safe room or crate where your pet will be comfortable and away from the chaos. Play soft music and provide a special toy to help keep them distracted and calm.

Our Mill Creek Animal Hospital team wishes you and yours a happy and hazard-free holiday season. Should your pet get into any holiday trouble, call or message our office—we are always here to help.