Protect Your Pets from Holiday Hazards [VIDEO]

Dog and cat

Dogs, cats and other pets rely on their human family members to keep them safe during the holidays. (Photo by dixie wells, Flickr)

Each year, veterinarians around the country warn pet owners about the potential health hazards animals face during the holidays. From electric shocks and fires to strangulation and stomach upsets, human parents unwittingly place their furry children in the middle of a veritable minefield during one of the most festive times of the year. Here’s what you should know to keep your pets happy and healthy this season. 

Lulu caught with stolen dog treat

Although all pets love treats, too much of anything is never a good thing. (Photo by OtterBox, Flickr)

Pet Treats

Every animal I’ve ever had loves treats, whether you give them as a gift, a reward, or whether they steal one for themselves, like little Lulu pictured above. But never let your pet decide when they’ve had their fill, because they will eat until they burst given the opportunity.

According to veterinarian Carmela Stamper at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, allowing pets to binge can cause big problems. They may not be able to digest their treats if they eat too many in a short period of time. Sometimes pets swallow treats whole and they get lodged in the trachea or gastrointestinal tract, which is particularly a problem with small dogs.

Telltale signs that pet parents should look out for if this happens are: drooling, choking, vomiting, diarrhea, decrease in activity, loss of appetite, and stomach pain. Also know that your pet may not get sick right away. Sometimes symptoms don’t show up until hours or days later. “When in doubt, contact your veterinarian, who may need to take x-rays or use an endoscope to see what and where the problem is,” Stamper says.

The best thing to do is to give your pets chew toys that are basically indestructible, recommends the ASPCA. Kongs are great toys for dogs because you can stuff them with healthy treats they can digest. Cats, on the other hand, may love stringy toys with ribbons and yarn, but these things can get caught in your feline’s intestines. So opt for balls, toys you can stuff with catnip, and other interactive toys like the Cat Dancer.

Cat with tinsel

Tinsel is particularly harmful to pets because it can cause deadly intestinal obstructions. (Photo by Mark Seton, Flickr)


If your family loves turning your home into a winter wonderland during the holidays, it is important to keep your pets in mind when selecting your decorations. According to PetMD, supervise your pets when they are around the Christmas tree, or keep them out of the room altogether. Dogs can jump up on a tree and cats tend to climb it and injure themselves as a result.

Also, pets like to chew on trees, both the real and imitation varieties, and this can cause digestive problems for them too. If you use a real tree, be sure to cover the water bowl at the bottom because sometimes harmful chemicals are used to preserve the evergreen and they can leach into the water which can poison your pet if they drink it.

Other items to avoid are using imitation snow, also called flocking, which can cause serious problems for your pets if ingested. If you hang edible ornaments on the tree, place them high enough pets can’t reach them. Various ingredients used in these items can prove toxic, or give your pet a sugar rush at best.

Lit candles on the tree might be pretty, but trees are flammable and an excited pet could accidentally knock over a candle and catch on fire. But strings of lights can be equally dangerous if a pet starts gnawing on the wires, which could result in an electrical shock.

Finally, while you might throw tinsel on the tree for the way it catches the light, please know that it is equally attractive to your pet. Dogs and cats ingest more of this stuff than you might think, and it can cause serious problems such as the deadly effects of an intestinal obstruction.

Kitty with poinsettias

Be careful which plants you decorate with because some like mistletoe and poinsettias can make pets sick. (Photo by Rochelle Hartman, Flickr)


Christmas trees aren’t the only plants you need to avoid if you have pets. Lots of other plants traditionally used during the holidays can cause major problems for your furry friends too.

For example, according to the National Animal Poison Control Center, mistletoe contains the intense toxins lectins and phoratoxins that slows heart rates, lowers blood pressure, and might actually make your pet vomit or even suffer depression if devoured. Poinsettias taste bad to pets, but if they do eat them your dogs may get a stomachache, vomit or suffer from diarrhea while cats will drool excessively.

Most animals avoid English holly because of its taste, but if eaten it too can lead to depression, excessive lip smacking, diarrhea and vomiting. Christmas cactus also has similar effects on the pet population.

If you think your pet has consumed any of these plants, contact your veterinarian immediately or call the 24-hour poison control center at the ASPCA at (888) 426-4435. Be sure to tell them which plant your pet devoured, the part of the plant they ate, how much of it they consumed, when it was eaten, as well as your pet’s age, weight and condition.

Dog begging for scraps

Be strong! Don’t give in to those puppy dog eyes when your pet begs for table scraps. (Photo by Shannon Archuleta, Flickr)

Table Scraps

Those big brown puppy dog eyes can weaken the strongest resolve, but don’t give in when your pet begs for table scraps. Oklahoma State University’s Center for Veterinary Health Sciences says that gravy, meat fat, and poultry skin can cause serious conditions like pancreatitis and other gastrointestinal problems. Also, bones can splinter and obstruct a pet’s bowels too. Their best recommendation is to keep pets away from the dining table, especially if you have kiddos who may be tempted to slip their pet a treat from their plate.

Stamper also warns pet owners to be careful about where they dispose of table waste. How many times have you caught Fido or Fifi digging through the garbage to get at your leftovers? If you don’t want to see your pet suffer from a torn mouth, throat or intestines, or face a hefty veterinary bill yourself, you do well to put the trash where your animals can’t get to it. From personal experience, I recommend you take trash out as soon as dinner is finished and make sure you have a trash can that isn’t easily opened. You may even want to put something heavy on top for extra measure.

Dog beer

Even though your pet may seem to enjoy your favorite adult beverage, resist the urge to share your booze. (Photo by Andrew Magill, Flickr)

Alcohol and Other Human Treats

Understand that table scraps aren’t the only things we enjoy as humans that pets need to avoid. Most of us already realize that chocolate can be dangerous to dogs and cats, particularly depending on the size of your pet. But did you know that mints and candy canes are also harmful?

Xylitol is an ingredient found in lots of foods and personal hygiene products, and it can cause vomiting, hypoglycemia, weakness, staggering, collapse, seizures and other serious problems for your pet. Some foods you should be on the watch for are sugar-free products, candy, gum, and even some peanut butters. If your pet consumes chocolate or xylitol, consider it an emergency and call your veterinarian immediately.

Additionally, keep your pets away from your booze. If people suffer the side effects of alcohol consumption, you can only imagine what it does to your pet, even if they do appear to enjoy it. When pets raid the liquor cabinet, they may suffer common ailments such as vomiting and diarrhea, but in some cases it can also lead to coma and death from respiratory failure.

All in all, please be mindful of what you feed your pet and keep an eye on them, particularly during the holidays. Pet proofing your home is vital. It would also be a good idea to keep the veterinarian’s phone number posted where everyone can see it in case there is an emergency. Finally, make sure your entire family is aware of the dangers so everyone can work together to keep your furry friends safe, healthy, and happy.

[FDA Consumer Health Information]

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

One Response to Protect Your Pets from Holiday Hazards [VIDEO]

  1. Jathan Fink says:

    Reblogged this on Jadeworks Entertainment and commented:

    The holiday season may be fun for you, but it is filled with hidden dangers for your pet. Learn what things your furry friends need to avoid in this helpful, fact-filled article designed to keep your pets safe.

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