Keeping Pets Safe this Holiday Season

December 12, 2014 / Feline Wellness / Leave a comment


Keeping Pets Safe this Holiday Season

A combination of Two Articles from the Pet Poison Help Line at


The holiday season is a magical time to reconnect with family and friends, deck the halls, and celebrate the spirit of giving. Most pets seem to enjoy the holidays too and some are lucky enough to get their own stocking stuffed with new toys and treats. But fun times can quickly turn to tragedy when pets are exposed to potentially poisonous holiday foods, certain yuletide plants, and some common holiday decorations.

“Many dogs and cats simply cannot resist the smell and taste of new things, sometimes causing them to ingest items that can land them at the emergency veterinary clinic on Christmas eve,” said Ahna Brutlag, DVM, MS, DABT and assistant director at Pet Poison Helpline. “During the holidays, our homes are filled with new and interesting items, but some can pose a potential poison threat to dogs and cats when ingested.”

Keeping your cat safe during the holidays involves first knowing what items are dangerous and then keeping them out of the reach. Pet Poison Helpline shares the top holiday danger threats that can cause physical harm or poison cats during the holidays:


Because alcohol is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, it affects pets quickly. Ingestion of alcohol can cause dangerous drops in blood sugar, blood pressure and body temperature. Intoxicated animals can experience seizures and respiratory failure. Additionally, foods such as desserts containing alcohol and unbaked dough that contains yeast should be kept away from pets as they may result in alcohol toxicity, vomiting, disorientation and stomach bloat.

Holiday Foods:

With the holiday season comes a delightful variety of baked goods, chocolate confections and other rich, fattening foods. However, it is not wise (and in some cases is quite dangerous) to share these treats with your pets. Keep your pet on his or her regular diet over the holidays and do not let family and friends sneak in treats. Foods that can present problems:

Chocolate and cocoa contain theobromine, a chemical highly toxic to dogs and cats. Ingestion in small amounts can cause vomiting and diarrhea but large amounts can cause seizures and heart arrhythmias.

Many sugarless gums and candies contain xylitol, a sweetener which is toxic to pets. It causes a life-threatening drop in blood sugar and liver failure.

Leftover, fatty meat scraps can produce severe inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) leading to abdominal pain, vomiting and bloody diarrhea.

During the holidays, it is best to keep pets on their regular diets, and it is perfectly acceptable to discourage holiday guests from feeding them any human food.

Yuletide plants:

Though they have a bad rap, poinsettia plants are only mildly toxic.  The sticky white sap of poinsettias usually causes only minor mouth or stomach irritation if ingested by a cat. Instead, the bigger threat is lilies. As little as 1-2 leaves or petals—even the pollen— can result in severe, acute kidney failure in cats. Certain lilies commonly found in bouquets, including tiger, Asiatic, stargazer, day and Easter lilies pose the biggest threats.

Like poinsettias, American mistletoe has been rumored toxic. This is likely because its cousin, European mistletoe, can be toxic to pets. Ingestion of American mistletoe leaves or berries may cause mild stomach upset, but not serious poisoning.

Cats can also experience vomiting and diarrhea after ingesting Christmas cactus. Likewise, the spiny and leathery leaves of the Christmas or English holly can result in irritation and damage to the stomach and intestines of dogs and cats. The holly’s berries have mildly toxic properties, but are fairly tolerable in most pets. While death is not likely, it’s best to keep these plants out of pets’ reach.

Holiday Ornaments:

When decorating for the season, consider your pets. Holiday decorations such as snow globes or bubble lights may contain poisonous chemicals. If your pet chews on them the liquid inside could be could be dangerous to their health. Methylene chloride, the chemical in bubble lights, can result in depression, aspiration pneumonia and irritation to the eyes, skin and gastrointestinal tract.


Avoid using tinsel for decorating trees. For households with cats, tinsel should be in one place only – the garbage. Tinsel looks like a shiny toy, but it can be deadly. If ingested, it can result in a severe linear foreign body, meaning the stringy tinsel can wrap around the base of the tongue or anchor itself in the stomach, making it impossible to pass through the intestines. As the intestines contract and move, tinsel can slowly saw through the tissue, resulting in severe damage to your pet’s intestinal tract. Treatment involves expensive abdominal surgery. It’s best to keep tinsel, as well as ribbon, yarn and thread out of your pet’s reach.

 Liquid Potpourri:

 Filling your house with the smell of nutmeg or pine for the holidays may seem inviting—but if you’re partial to heating your scented oils in a simmer pot, know that they can cause serious harm to your cat; even a few licks can result in severe chemical burns in the mouth, fever, difficulty breathing, and tremors. Dogs aren’t as sensitive, but it’s still better to be safe than sorry—so scent your home with a non-toxic candle kept safely out of kitty’s reach.

Imported Snow Globes:

Recently, imported snow globes were found to contain antifreeze (ethylene glycol.) As little as one teaspoon of antifreeze when ingested by a cat or a tablespoon can be fatal. Signs of early poisoning include acting drunk or uncoordinated, excessive thirst, and lethargy. While signs may seem to improve after eight to twelve hours, internal damage is actually worsening, and crystals develop in the kidneys resulting in acute kidney failure. Immediate treatment with an antidote is vital.

Beware of Handbags:

When guests arrive, be sure to stow handbags safety out of pets’ reach. Cats find handbags and their contents incredibly interesting, which can lead to trouble. Handbags are reservoirs for things toxic to cats. The most common worrisome purse items include prescription medications, pain medications (e.g., Tylenol, Advil, Aleve), sugarless chewing gum (with xylitol), asthma inhalers, cigarettes, coins, and hand sanitizers.

When it comes to the holidays, the best thing a pet owner can do is get educated on common household toxins and pet-proof your home accordingly. If you think your pet has been poisoned, contact your veterinarian.
Happy Holidays
From Village Cat Clinic Team

Leave a comment