Winter Holiday Pet Safety Tips

Winter Holiday Pet Safety Tips

When celebrating during the holidays don’t forget to keep your pets in mind.  There are many potential toxins around the house that should be avoided.  Some may seem perfectly safe to humans but could cause severe harm to animals.

Holiday Ornaments:

Choose shatter-resistant ornaments and keep them out of reach of pets.  They can cause damage to paws if broken and stepped on, and there is the potential for choking and obstruction if swallowed.

Avoid putting electrical lights on the lower branches of the tree.  Curious puppies and kittens may get shocked and burned if they decide to chew on them.

Bubble lights contain methylene chloride. If your pet chews on them and ingests some of this liquid it can result in aspiration pneumonia and irritation to the eyes, skin, and gastrointestinal tract.

Tinsel is particularly dangerous if you own a cat.  If ingested it can cause intestinal obstruction and possibly perforation.

Snow Globes:

Some snow globes, especially the ones from overseas, contain antifreeze (ethylene glycol) to prevent them from freezing during shipping.  Antifreeze is extremely toxic to cats and dogs if ingested. Signs of early poisoning include acting drunk or uncoordinated, excessive thirst, and lethargy. 12 to 72 hours after ingestion the kidneys can be affected. Clinical signs include severe depression, vomiting, kidney failure, seizure, coma, and death.  Aggressive treatment is necessary, including the use of the antidote Fomepizole early on after ingestion, and hospitalization with intravenous fluids.

Holiday Foods:

Holiday treats, like cookies and sweets, are abundant at this time of the year.  Some may be quite dangerous to our furry friends and should be kept out of their reach.

Chocolate and cocoa contain theobromine which is highly toxic to dogs and cats. Ingestion of  small amounts can cause gastrointestinal upset such as vomiting and diarrhea.  Eating large amounts can lead to heart arrhythmias, seizures, and even death.

Xylitol is a sugar substitute commonly used in sugar-free gums, candies, and other products. It is extremely toxic to dogs.  Ingestion of even small amounts can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), seizures, and liver failure.

Foods containing grapes and raisins (such as fruitcakes) can result in acute kidney failure in dogs.  Even though the toxic agent has not yet been identified, it appears to be associated with the flesh of the fruit.

Fatty meals such as turkey leftovers, and gravy can lead to vomiting, diarrhea and, potentially, to a severe inflammation of the pancreas called pancreatitis.


Alcoholic beverages should never be offered to pets because they contain ethanol which is toxic to dogs and cats.  Early clinical signs include vomiting, diarrhea, disorientation, depression, and tremors.  Severe cases may progress to hypothermia, hypoglycemia, seizures, respiratory failure, and death.

Alcohol can also be found in foods and desserts such as fruit cakes and in unbaked dough that contains yeast.  When the yeast in the unbaked dough starts to ferment in the warm moist environment of the stomach it results in the production of carbon dioxide and alcohol.  Moreover, the expansion of the bread dough can result in a bloat, or worse, gastric dilation and volvulus (GDV).

In our next blog post, we will discuss popular holiday plants which may post danger to pets.  If you suspect that your dog or cat has been exposed to toxins, do not hesitate to call us and come in ASAP for an assessment so that appropriate treatments can be given in a timely manner.  Have a safe and happy holiday!

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