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Pet safety during the holidays

In this issue, learn how to navigate around dangers for your pets during the holiday season.

Photographers: iStock

Text: Tarek Abu Sham

When the holidays roll around, it's an exciting time for everyone, and our pets are no exception. There are new sights and smells, lights, and often even a Christmas tree going up. You might bring home plants such as poinsettias and hang boughs of mistletoe in the doorways. It's important that you take extra precautions at this time of year, however, to ensure that your dogs and cats stay healthy with so many things for them to get into.

Sometimes, pets play with ribbons and tinsel, and these can cause serious intestinal obstructions if swallowed, often requiring surgery.


Many of the plants we bring home during the holidays are toxic to our pets. Eating the needles off of Christmas trees can cause blockages, while the sap from a live Christmas tree can be irritating for your pet's mouth. Poinsettias would have mild toxic potential if your pet were to eat them.

Some plants are especially toxic that your dog or cat might find interesting. Christmas lilies can cause acute, or rapid onset, kidney failure in cats, so you should consider seriously if you want to bring one or more into your home. Artificial ones can be just as lovely and not have the hazards posed by a live plant.

Other plants that can be toxic to your pet include mistletoe and holly. These plants can cause mild gastrointestinal signs, such as drooling and abdominal pain when ingested in small amounts. If consumed in large amounts, they can cause ataxia, low blood pressure, and even death.

Holiday Decorations

Many people go all out for the holidays, putting up decorations all over the house and yard. Your Christmas tree can pose a problem for some pets, especially if they are inquisitive. Ribbons and tinsel are sometimes played with by pets, and these can cause serious intestinal obstructions if swallowed, often requiring surgery.

There may be lights on the Christmas tree or strung up around the house. If your pet chews on these, it can get electrical burns and be severely injured. Chomping down on ornaments or Christmas lights can cut their mouth or cause foreign body issues within your pet's gastrointestinal tract.

Holiday Meals

If you're like most people, it's tempting to give a little bit of your holiday meal to your pet. Unfortunately, doing so can lead to health issues such as pancreatitis. Common culprits for causing issues during the holidays are holiday hams. This foodstuff is often linked to cases of gastrointestinal upset, with some leading to pancreatitis.

Other foods can be problematic during the holidays. Foods like fruitcakes may contain raisins, which are linked to kidney failure in dogs, even by just eating one. Foods that contain xylitol, an artificial sweetener, are also toxic and have been linked to hypoglycemia, or a drop in blood sugar, as well as liver failure.

Cocoa is also a common ingredient in holiday dishes and treats. A component of cocoa is theobromine, which can be toxic in small amounts, leading to hyperactivity and gastrointestinal problems. In large amounts, it has been linked to seizures, heart arrhythmias, and even death.

We’re here for you

The holidays are a wonderful time to spend with family, friends, and of course, your pets. It's important that you exercise caution with the plants and decorations that you put up around the house or the food that you serve to your pets.

Book our services to hire a knowledgeable sitter to look after your pet this holiday season. Our team is comprised of current and future veterinarians. The Pet agrees knows how to best look after your pet.

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