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Common Christmas Pet Dangers | An Ultimate Guide for Pet Owners

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Christmas is approaching and during this holiday season, our animal emergency hospital sees a trend of holiday-themed pet dangers that could have been prevented. To help your family avoid a trip to our ER this Christmas, we’ve compiled some of our previous blogs to create this ultimate list of the most common Christmas pet dangers and how to avoid them.

1. Holiday Décor

  • Plants
    • There are many types of plants that are toxic to pets. Lilies, yew, holly, mistletoe, and amaryllis are the most common toxic holiday plants. Learn more about each of these plants here. Always check with the ASPCA Toxic & Non-Toxic Plant Guide before bringing any plant into your home!
  • Christmas Trees
    • If you have a real Christmas tree, keep your pets away from the tree’s water! This water can be toxic as it can contain bacteria, pesticides, and mold. Invest in a tight-fitting tree skirt to prevent your pets from drinking the water.
  • Pine Needles
    • Promptly clean up any fallen pine needles from a tree, wreath, or other decoration. If swallowed by your pet, the pine needles can cause intestinal obstructions.
  • Ribbons, Tinsel, and String
    • Cats who play with ribbon, tinsel, and string are more likely to accidentally swallow these items. When this happens, they can get stuck underneath your cat’s tongue or in the stomach which causes an intestinal obstruction that requires emergency surgery.
  • Salt Dough Ornaments
    • Homemade salt dough ornaments require a large amount of salt, which is toxic to pets. If eaten in high enough quantities, salt can cause vomiting, weakness, diarrhea, muscle tremors, and seizures.

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  • Snow Globes
    • Snow globes are toxic if they break open. The liquid inside a snow globe often contains ethylene glycol which is the same toxin found in antifreeze. Concentration levels vary so it’s always best to keep pets away from any spills until the glass and liquid are completely cleaned up.
  • Candles
    • Any open flames can become dangerous to pets. Curious pets may burn their paws or tails. Pets might also knock over a candle and cause a house fire. Instead of using open flamed candles, we recommend battery-operated candles.
  • Potpourri
    • Liquid potpourri has chemicals called cationic detergents. This is especially dangerous for cats! If eaten, it 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.
  • Ornaments
    • Ornaments easily shatter and can cause serious cuts and life-threatening internal injuries if eaten. Wood, fabric, and plastic ornaments are safer but it’s important to note that they can still cause a choking hazard or an intestinal blockage.
  • Electrical Cords
    • If your pet tends to chew on cords, your Christmas tree lights and other plug-in decorations can become an immediate hazard. Pets may experience burns or can even be electrocuted from any frayed wires. We recommend using short extension cords and taping them down to the floor and wall. Also, always turn off the power to your tree when you are not able to supervise your pet around the tree.

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2. Toxic Human Foods

  • Chocolate
    • Chocolate is one of the most popular holiday pet toxins because of chocolate gifts under the tree or in stockings, making it easily accessible by pets. It’s always best to keep chocolate in a secure, high cupboard. Chocolate can cause gastrointestinal upset, as well as cardiac and neurological side effects. Dark chocolate and Baker’s chocolate are the most dangerous but toxicity is based on the type of chocolate, the amount eaten, and your pet’s weight.
  • Xylitol
    • Xylitol can cause low blood sugar, liver damage, and seizures. This sugarless sweetener is often found in gum and sugar-free products such as candy, baked goods, and pudding. Keep in mind that candy canes tend to contain xylitol!
  • Grapes, Raisins, and Zante Currants
    • Many favorite holiday breads, salads, and desserts (including fruitcake) contain grapes, raisins, or Zante currants. These foods can cause kidney damage when eaten by your pet.
  • Yeast Dough
    • Yeast dough is used for homemade bread and rolls can cause stomach bloating and alcohol poisoning in pets. The alcohol is produced from fermenting yeast as the dough rises in your pet’s warm stomach. In severe cases, the stomach can twist which requires emergency surgery.

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  • Gingerbread Cookies
      • Gingerbread cookies and houses are dangerous because they contain nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and cinnamon. These common spices are toxic to pets. Learn more here.
  • Onions, Garlic, Leeks, and Chives
    • Garlic, onions, leeks, and chives are also toxic to pets. They can cause stomach upset and destruction of the red blood cells. Don’t give your pet any of these foods or dishes that contain these foods as an ingredient.
  • Macadamia Nuts
    • Macadamia nuts are toxic to dogs and can cause them to vomit, experience tremors, become lethargic, weak, or unable to walk. Don’t place any snack nut bags under the tree or in stockings!
  • Alcohol
    • Never leave alcoholic beverages unattended and quickly clean up any spills. Even a small amount of alcohol can be very dangerous as alcohol causes drops in blood sugar, blood pressure, and body temperature. Alcohol poisoning can also lead to seizures and respiratory failure.

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3. Gastrointestinal Emergencies

  • Food Bloat
    • Overfeeding a pet can lead to food bloat which can be painful and in severe cases, it can be life-threatening. Over the holidays, stick with your pet’s usual food intake and don’t let them over-indulge in human food, treats, or even their own pet food.
  • Bone Ingestion
    • Never feed your pet meat bones. Chewing and swallowing any meat bones can cause gastrointestinal upset, small intestinal obstructions, and/or damage to the teeth and gums.
  • Candy Wrappers
    • Plastic wrappers from candies can get stuck in your pet’s digestive tract which can cause a life-threatening blockage. Refrain from placing candies in stockings and remind kids not to leave any candy out.
  • Pancreatitis
    • Some pets can be very sensitive to food changes and get pancreatitis, a condition where the pancreas becomes inflamed after your pet eats rich, fatty foods. This common disease can vary from mild to severe. Vomiting, decrease in appetite, decrease in energy, abdominal pain, and diarrhea are the most common signs of pancreatitis. To prevent pancreatitis, do not give your pet any fatty or sugary human foods like ham, sausage, gravy, butter, oil, or holiday cookies and sweets.

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If your pet does get into any of these holiday dangers or experiences another type of pet emergency, contact your family veterinarian or local animal emergency hospital. Our Oakdale facility is currently open 24/7, every day of the week including holidays.

More Christmas pet safety tips here:

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