Holiday Pet Dangers

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! As you’re looking to trim your home this year in all sorts of Christmas cheer, please keep in mind that some of our festive decor can be toxic to our furry friends!


Christmas trees are a staple this time of year, but they can be quite dangerous. Live Christmas trees, and other kinds of pine garlands and wreaths, can be toxic if ingested, especially for cats, leading to liver failure. Even drinking the water that the tree is in can cause liver damage in cats. If only a small amount is ingested, pets may only exhibit gastrointestinal upset, like vomiting and diarrhea, but if they eat enough, it can lead to fatal organ damage. Pine needles (including the artificial kind) can lead to esophageal and gastrointestinal irritation and potentially perforation if ingested. Perforation of the stomach or intestines due to pine needles can lead to sepsis and death. Other holiday plants, like poinsettias, holly, and mistletoe are also toxic to dogs and cats and can lead to kidney or liver failure, which can be fatal if enough is eaten.

The non-plant decor items are not off the hook; Ribbons and tinsel are very attractive to cats and can lead to a linear foreign body that will likely require surgery, if ingested, and can lead to severe complications and death if the gut has been perforated. Snow globes often contain ethylene glycol, the active ingredient in antifreeze, that causes severe kidney failure, and is often fatal if ingested. Strings of lights are often appealing to cats, ferrets, and puppies and can cause severe burns, mouth ulcers, and respiratory distress if chewed. Ornaments and the shiny toys that Santa brings are new and exciting and can easily become foreign bodies that require surgery for the curious dogs and cats that ingest them.

The Christmas season also brings lots of delicious foods. The holidays bring an influx of chocolate, xylitol, and caffeine cases for veterinary poison controls as sweet treats are more easily accessible. Cases of pancreatitis also rise during the holidays due to pets being fed Christmas dinner table scraps by well meaning owners. Chocolate, xylitol, and caffeine toxicity can be fatal if enough is ingested. Pancreatitis is a very painful disease that often requires extensive hospitalization with supportive care and can be fatal if severe. It is important to keep all sweets and treats far out of reach and avoid feeding your pets fatty foods, like gravy, fatty pieces of meat, and mashed potatoes. 

If you are ever unsure if the product your pet has ingested contains dangerous amounts of chocolate, caffeine, or xylitol, calling Pet Poison Helpline (1 (855) 764-7661), a 24/7 phone service for veterinary toxin emergencies, can be extremely helpful. 

Preventing a toxin exposure or foreign body is the best thing you can do to save Christmas this year! While any pet can get into some holiday mischief, it is important to be mindful of our newer pets who might be celebrating Christmas for the first time and are more likely to get into something they should not! 

With all of this in mind, we at Drummond Animal Hospital hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


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