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6 Common Holiday Items You Didn’t Know Were Toxic to Your Pet

cat with paws on a glass ornament, holiday pet toxins, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota

If you witnessed or strongly suspect that your pet ingested a toxic plant, this is considered an “ORANGE” – or urgent case – on our Fast Track Triage system. We recommend calling ASPCA Animal Poison Control at 888-426-4435 for help determining if your pet consumed a toxic amount and for guidance on what to do next. If veterinary care is advised, call your family veterinarian or local animal emergency hospital ahead of your arrival.


Pet parents are often aware of those more common holiday pet toxins like the box of chocolates, the snack mix with macadamia nuts and raisins, the sugarless gum in the Christmas stockings, the moldy food in the trash, and the medications in grandma’s purse. So, kudos to all of you for pet-proofing and keeping your house pet-safe! But when it comes to the decor and food that accompanies the holiday season, some toxins go unrecognized. Here’s a list of six common holiday items that you may not realize are toxic to your pets!

homemade salt dough ornament mittens with paintings, holiday pet toxins, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota

1. Salt Dough Ornaments 

Homemade salt dough ornaments are popular amongst crafty parents as they preserve a young child’s handprint or even a pet’s paw print. But if your pet eats one, sodium poisoning can transpire. Signs include vomiting and excessive water intake. In severe cases, sodium poisoning can cause muscle tremors, seizures, or death. 

Christmas tree with flocking, purple and pink glass ornaments, holiday pet toxins, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota

2. Christmas Trees

Both real and artificial Christmas trees come with multiple toxic and non-toxic hazards for your pets. With real trees, the water dish can contain toxic bacteria, pesticides, and mold. Signs of ingestion include vomiting, diarrhea, and mouth irritation. 

Artificial Christmas tree flocking (fake snow) is mildly toxic, but can also be dangerous if swallowed since it can lead to an intestinal obstruction. Signs of such an obstruction include vomiting and diarrhea.  

While non-toxic, other common hazards include glass ornaments, hooks, edible decorations like stringed popcorn or candy canes, ribbon or tinsel, and electrical cords. Learn more here.

mistletoe, holly, fake berries, holiday pet toxins, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota

3. Holiday Plants   

Before bringing any type of plant or bouquet into your home, always use the ASPCA Toxic and Non-Toxic Plant List to triple-check that they are not toxic to your pet. You can also use the app PlantSnap to help identify any unknown plants!  

Despite popular belief, poinsettias are only mildly toxic to pets. These plants are of much greater concern: 

  • Lilies can cause vomiting, anorexia, drooling, lethargy, and life-threatening kidney damage in cats.  
  • Holly and mistletoe can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and depression. 
  • Yew can cause tremors, difficulty breathing, vomiting, seizures (dogs), and death 
  • Amaryllis can cause vomiting, diarrhea, depression, abdominal pain, hypersalivation, anorexia, and tremors. If the bulb is swallowed, it may lead to an intestinal obstruction. 

Learn more about these plants here! 

essential oils in corked bottles surrounded by evergreen and spices, holiday pet toxins, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota

4. Essential Oils & Potpourri 

Liquid potpourri contains chemicals called cationic detergents that are especially dangerous to cats! If eaten, liquid potpourri can cause severe chemical burns in the mouth, as well as fever, difficulty breathing, and tremors. Solid potpourri can also be toxic and cause an intestinal blockage if eaten. 

Many types of essential oils including Wintergreen, Pine Oil, Pennyroyal Oil, and Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca Oil) are extremely toxic to pets. Other common essential oils toxic to cats and dogs include cinnamon, citrus, clove, peppermint, sweet birch, thyme, and Ylang Ylang. Additionally, anise, garlic, Juniper, and yarrow are also toxic to dogs. Eucalyptus, oregano, and lavender are also toxic to cats.   

Note: This list includes the most common toxic essential oils but is not limited to just these ones. Always proceed with caution when using essential oils around any type of pet. 

snow globe with snowmen inside, Christmas lights, garland, holiday pet toxins, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota

5. Snow Globes 

The liquid inside a snow globe often contains ethylene glycol, which is the same toxin found in antifreeze. So when broken, snow globes pose a danger to your pets. Concentration levels of ethylene glycol can vary, so keep pets away from spills until the liquid and broken glass are completely cleaned up. Signs of ethylene glycol ingestion include vomiting, a drunken gait, disorientation, and increased thirst and urination. 

red and silver tinsel, holiday pet toxins, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota

6. Tinsel Garland 

Not only can tinsel cause a foreign body obstruction, but certain types can also be toxic. Tinsel made before 1970 can contain lead which may cause lead poisoning in your pet. Also, depending on the material, some tinsel can also cause zinc poisoning in pets. Common signs include vomiting, diarrhea, hemolysis (rupturing of red blood cells), anemia, and pancreatitis 

pet owners with Christmas sweaters and Santa hats on, dog licking man's face, holiday pet toxins, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota

If you have any of these items in your home, we hope this information helps you pet-proof as needed or remove any unnecessary items. If your pet does get into any toxins this holiday season, you can contact a pet poison helpline such as ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control or Pet Poison Helpline. If your pet requires veterinary care, our Oakdale and St. Paul ERs are open 24/7, including holidays.  

More Reading:  

Janine Hagen

Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota, Fast Track Triage, color-coded triage system, pet emergency, Twin Cities emergency vet, Minnesota emergency vet, Saint Paul emergency vet, Oakdale emergency vet

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