Your Pet and the Hazards of the Holidays

Written by Dr. Nina Mantione

Turkey dinners, sparkly trees, pine scented candles and beribboned packages are all the wonderful things we look forward to during the holiday season. And who doesn’t love to spoil their cats and dogs? Certainly there should be new fluffy beds and yummy treats just for them too. While the holiday season gives us a reason to spoil our four legged family members, it can also hold some hidden health risks you should be watchful for.

Holiday Meals

It is hard to resist the soulful brown eyes of your dog or the sweet little meow of your cat when they beg for a taste of the big feast, but feeding them from the table this time of year may end up making them sick. Rich fatty foods can lead to a bout of vomiting and diarrhea that we refer to as a gastroenteritis, and in some cases, eating a high fat meal can lead to pancreatitis, a sometimes life threatening inflammation of the pancreas. We should also be cautious about what foods we give our pets. Certain ingredients, like onions, chocolate, or raisins, can be toxic to our pets. If you really can’t resist a special treat from the table, a tiny piece of turkey with no sauce or skin is a good option to share.


There may be nothing more tempting to a cat or young dog than holiday decorations! All of those twinkly lights and holly berries look like such fun to play with, and the Christmas tree offers a fun fort to hide under and climb. Aside from wrecking your expensive decorations, ingesting foreign objects is a quick way to land your pet in our office. In a worst case scenario, an object could lodge itself in the intestine, a condition we call a foreign body obstruction. Typically (but not always) an obstructed animal will vomit profusely and lose their appetite. Diagnosed via our physical exam and x-rays, an obstruction is a life threatening emergency. We recommend only supervised access to these holiday temptations and discourage any use of tinsel, which is especially appealing to cats.

Decorative candles and menorahs can pose another holiday hazard when curious cats or boisterous dogs are around. We’ve seen plenty of singed whiskers on our feline friends and more than one puppy who has gotten too close to the hot wax or open flame. Make sure candles are kept high enough to avoid being knocked over by a happy tail, and never leave them unattended when your cats are exploring.

Holiday Travel

If you plan to travel with your pet over the holidays, make sure he or she is up to date on all vaccines, particularly if you plan to cross state lines. You may want to bring your pet’s vaccine records just in case of emergency, as well as any extra doses of medications your pet may be on. If your pet has a chronic or serious health condition, you should bring along a copy of his or her medical records in the event you need to make an emergency visit to an out of town veterinarian. Make sure your pet has identification in the form of an ID tag and/or microchip. If your pet is wearing a tag, make sure it has a number where you can be reached while you are away (such as a cell phone).

Have a very safe and happy holiday! Spoil your furry friends (but not too much!), and don’t forget to put a stocking by the chimney for them too.