Ask the Doctor: How Do I Keep My Pets Safe During The Holidays?

Written by Dr. Robert Heidecker

Question: With the holiday season upon us, what should I know or be watchful for to keep my pets safe?

Answer: There are many types of holiday hazards that pet owners need to be aware of and on the lookout for that can be poisonous or detrimental your pet’s health. **It is very important to contact our office or your veterinarian should your pet ingest any of the listed items below. (When in doubt, a call will never hurt).


1. Holly & Mistletoe – Both are highly poisonous to dogs and cats, and any ingestion should be reported to your veterinarian immediately.
2. Poinsettia – Mainly just causes vomiting and diarrhea in both dogs and cats.
3. Pine needles – There are 2 concerns. First, the needles are sharp and can damage the throat or intestines of your pet. Second, the sap is very irritating to your pet’s digestive tract.


1. Poultry bones such as turkey or chicken bones – These bones are sharp and can splinter causing damage of the esophagus or intestinal tract including punctures or perforations. It is very important to avoid giving your pet the opportunity to ingest these bones from trash or your kitchen counters or tables.
2. Chocolate – The most dangerous or toxic chocolate to your pet’s health is dark or baker’s chocolate. Even milk chocolate, if enough is ingested, can cause toxicity.
3. Fatty foods – Vets see numerous cases every year of very sick pets due to eating human foods that they should not be eating. Fatty foods can cause vomiting and diarrhea and in some instances pancreatitis, which can be life threatening.
4. Year round toxic foods – As ALWAYS, avoid your pet ingesting macadamia nuts, grapes, raisins, onions, and xylitol-containing candies/gum/food products.

Christmas Hazards

1. Ornaments – Avoid your pet ingesting tinsel, ribbon, or glass or sharp ornaments or decorations.
2. Candles – Candles are a fire hazard and your pet does not know that. Candles can get knocked over by wagging tails or curious cats investigating and catching their hair or tails on fire. A good recommendation is to use flameless candles or at least place lit candles in a safe location where your pets cannot get to them.
3. Electrical cords – Keep cords out of pet’s reach as the most common thing we see at our office is pet’s getting electrocuted or their mouths burned from chewing on the cords.
4. Christmas Tree – Make sure to secure your tree or anchor it well as pets are curious and frequently knock them over hurting themselves or damaging your house or decorations.
5. Christmas Tree Water – Do not allow your pets to drink the tree water. This could make your pet very sick due to the needles and sap that gets into the water.