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Top 5 Pet Holiday Hazards

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Top 5 Pet Holiday Hazards


  1. Tis the season … for pancreatitis! The pancreas is a small digestive organ that helps Pets digest fat, among other things. During the holidays, we feast on wonderful and tasty traditional dinners that can include: turkey, pork, pot roasts, etc. As we enjoy these meals, we usually create left overs that are made up of the fatty trimmings of these meats. We feel bad that our pets did not enjoy the meals with us, and we want to include them, so we offer them these trimmings, as treats.  Please do not do this! Unfortunately, the days after Thanksgiving, Christmas, and even New Years are busy times at emergency hospitals as the wards fill with cases of acute pancreatitis. Our Pets’ pancreas can become inflamed trying to digest the extremely high fat treats that these trimmings represent. Please avoid this all too common, well intended, and completely preventable holiday mistake.
  2. Watch out for chocolate, raisins, xylitol, and alcohol – these are common holiday foods that are for humans only! Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, which can be potent stimulants to pets, causing vomiting, diarrhea, agitation, increased heart rate, tremors, seizures, and even death. Dogs are the most common victims, as their cases outnumber feline cases 5 to 1, according to the Pet Poison Helpline. The effects of chocolate toxicity vary depending on the type of chocolate and amount ingested. The purest, darkest chocolate is the most toxic. The following is a good general guideline of toxicity, from most to least toxic: cocoa powder, unsweetened bakers chocolate, semi sweet chocolate, dark chocolate, and milk chocolate. The size of your pet also matters, and smaller dogs are more susceptible. Raisins and grapes can cause renal failure in dogs and we really don’t understand why, so please avoid these. Xylitol can be an extremely potent and deadly toxin. It is an artificial sweetener found in gum, mints, candies and even peanut butter! Dogs don’t drink alcohol, but they can still be poisoned by it! Rum cake, alcohol laced desserts, and even unbaked bread dough can be dangerous. Unbaked bread dough will ferment in a dog’s stomach, which can lead to bloat and alcohol poisoning.
  3. Decorations, candles, tinsel, potpourri, and ornaments look great in the home, but can cause damage if knocked over or ingested!  Candles can be knocked over, so they should never be left burning and unattended. Cats are particularly attracted to shiny, dangling things that they may perceive as toys. They may start off playing with tinsel and end up swallowing; it has been known to entangle the intestines and cause obstructions. Puppies are sometimes just as curious and playful as cats and can also be affected. Potpourri might smell nice to us, but to pets with extremely sensitive senses of smell, it can be overwhelming! It contains toxic oils and ingestion of dry potpourri can cause vomiting or damage to the mouth and esophagus. Ingestion of hot liquid potpourri can cause painful burns and ulceration of the esophagus and stomach. Ornaments can break or be ingested, causing obstructions or sharp shards to damage the intestines. Plastic ornaments can be less hazardous than glass ones.
  4. Electrocutions are much more common around the holidays, so please be careful with light cords and electrical decorations. Curious puppies and kittens are usually the victims. They may be teething, or just generally curious, and chew through cords. Cords and outlets should be out of the reach of pets. Electrocution injuries can be particularly difficult to identify. They may happen silently or subtlety when no one is looking. Unfortunately, the damage has been done and in some cases Pets’ lungs can fill with fluid many hours after they’ve experienced the electrical shock.
  5. Holiday plants can be a hazard, but you’re not safe simply by avoiding poinsettias. In fact, poinsettias are relatively harmless; the worst that may happen might be an upset tummy. Much more toxic plants include mistletoe, bittersweet, holly, lilies, laurel, and amaryllis. Clinical signs of toxicity can vary from vomiting and diarrhea, to extreme lethargy, weakness, convulsions, or death. The list of poisonous plants can be long, but the ASPCA provides a good resource:

If you think that your animal is ill or may have ingested a poisonous substance, contact your local veterinarian or our 24-hour emergency poison hotline directly at 1-888-426-4435.

Blog post written by:

Dr. Oscar E Chavez BVetMed MRCVS MBA
Chief Medical Officer

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