Lucerne Veterinary Hospital Blog

Holiday Hazards: Keep your pet safe this festive winter season

holiday hazards

Red and green lights twinkle on evergreen branches, gently intertwined with shimmering silver tinsel. The aroma of chocolate chip and gingerbread cookies wafts lazily through homes bustling with excited children. The holiday season is replete with colorful decorations and delicious foods, but it is important to remember that this time of year can present special hazards for pets. Follow these tips so you can enjoy the holiday at home with your loved ones instead of at the emergency room.

Holiday Feasts

‘Tis the season for a wealth of tasty treats and delectable delights. Before you give into your pup’s beseeching brown eyes, however, keep in mind for some dogs, that even a small portion of rich foods such as ham, or gravy, or desserts can land him in the hospital. Be sure to keep these tasty foods away from your pets, as their consumption may lead to gastrointestinal disturbances. Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) can result from ingesting table scraps, and causes acute abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea, and can be life-threatening in severe cases. An evening that starts with your Labrador gleefully gobbling down the remains of your turkey dinner can end with him vomiting and groaning unhappily in the corner.

If you’re baking this season, make sure to keep raw yeast dough well out of reach. Its ingestion can be life-threatening. When it enters the stomach, the dough expands and can cause severe stomach bloating. In addition, the yeast can ferment and produce carbon dioxide and alcohol, resulting in alcohol poisoning.

Chocolate is another ubiquitous treat during the holidays. Dark chocolate and baking chocolate are especially dangerous due to their higher levels of theobromine and caffeine. These stimulants can cause vomiting, diarrhea, cardiac abnormalities, seizures, and death. Keep in mind that sometimes packages you have received in the mail can contain generous gifts of chocolate, so make sure that unidentified parcels are kept out of reach of pets.

Christmas Tree Safety

The tinsel adorning Christmas trees is often appealing especially to cats, but its ingestion can have dangerous consequences. Linear objects like tinsel, string, and floss can become trapped within the gastrointestinal tract, causing bunching and perforation of the intestines. This is a potentially fatal situation, and requires emergency surgery.

Avoid using water additives in your tree to prevent your pet from drinking potentially toxic substances. Even the stagnant water alone can harbor bacteria and cause stomach upset. Use a cover or hide the basin under the tree skirt.

Falling Christmas trees are also a possible hazard. Secure your tree to the wall to prevent it from being knocked over by pets or young children. You can keep your pets away from the Christmas tree by sprinkling the base with ground pepper, or using a taste deterrent such as bitter apple. In addition, you can use a citrus spray or hide an orange peel near the base. Wrapping tin foil around the base can also deter your pet from approaching the tree. It is also a good idea to refrain from hanging edible ornaments that may attract pets to the tree.

Decorative Plants

The dangers of decorative plants such as poinsettias have long been overstated. The leaves and flowers of the poinsettia may cause some irritation in the mouth and sometimes vomiting, but overall are not very toxic. Holly can cause some vomiting and diarrhea.

Mistletoe is one of the more toxic of the typical holiday plants, though the American varieties are less toxic than the European ones. Ingestion usually causes vomiting, diarrhea, and drooling. Large amounts, however, can cause cardiac abnormalities, low blood pressure, seizures, and death.


Candles are a warm and calming sight during the holidays, but they are also a fire hazard, especially in homes with enthusiastic tail wagging or curious cats. Make sure to keep all open flames out of reach of pets and children, or better yet, use flameless candles.

So this season, keep those foods and decorations out of reach so that you can enjoy the holidays free from mishaps. We at the Lucerne Veterinary Hospital hope that you have a safe and happy holiday. Please do not hesitate to call or email us with any questions or concerns you may have about your pets.



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