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Beware of hidden holiday dangers to your pets

You’re in full swing of the holiday season and while we want you to enjoy it you and you family might not realize the hazards that are around for your pets. In fact, the ASPCA Pet Poison Helpline gets more calls about potential poisonings at this time of the year than any other. So, what should you be on the lookout for?


Onions and garlic: Whether they’re fresh, cooked or in powdered form, these can be dangerous for your dogs and cats. They can injure their red blood cells and cause anemia and a list of symptoms like lethargy and vomiting.

Fatty meats: You may be tempted to feed your pet some meat, but if it’s fatty, it can cause an upset stomach and a potentially life-threatening, painful disease called pancreatitis. The most common symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs include vomiting, restlessness, and shaking and abdominal pain. In cats, the symptoms include a decreased appetite, vomiting and weight loss.

Bones: After you cook meat, the bones inside can splinter easily. This can cause blockages or lacerations in their gastrointestinal tracts. Veterinarians say that a lot of the time, pets get these foods from the trash. Best thing to do is to keep your trash in a bin under the sink or in the garage.

Under the Christmas tree

Presents: Food wrapped up as presents are a major danger, especially chocolate and candies that have the artificial sweetener xylitol. It can make dogs vomit, have an abnormal heart rate, or even have seizures.

Christmas tree water: Water that’s been sitting in the stand can be contaminated with fertilizer or just bacteria from sitting there for so long, making your pet sick.


Poinsettias: The milky white sap found in poinsettias contains chemicals that can cause an upset stomach and irritation to the mouth, especially in cats.

Holly: When holly is ingested, it can cause gastrointestinal upset and spiny leaves can create irritation to your pet’s mouth.

Mistletoe: If accidentally ingested, mistletoe can result in gastrointestinal irritation, causing vomiting and abdominal pain for your pet. Large amounts of it can cause abnormal heart rate, low blood pressure, seizures, and in some cases, death.

Lilies: These can be toxic to both cats and dogs, however, the effects are much more severe in cats. Cats who ingest lilies can be at risk for renal failure and death without treatment. If dogs ingest lilies, they don’t develop renal failure but may experience gastrointestinal upset. Lily toxicity signs vary but can include; decreased activity, lethargy, drooling, vomiting, decreased appetite, a change in thirst (either increased or decreased), and a change in urination (increased or decreased).


Medication: If you’re having a party, your guests may come in and drop their purses on the ground but that’s bad for your pet. They could swallow unknown medication that’s in there. The Pet Poison Helpline says animals ingesting human medications is one of their most common calls.

Gum: Another thing that might be in guests’ purses is gum. A lot of gums and sugar-free treats have the ingredient, xylitol in it. It can kill your dog within hours. Symptoms of xylitol poisoning in dogs include vomiting, low blood sugar, decreased activity, weakness, staggering, incoordination, collapse and seizures. Create a space, like a table or blocked-off room, for people to set down their bags, especially if your pet will be roaming the party.

If you do think your pet has ingested something toxic, you can call your local vet hospital or one of these lines that are open 24/7:
Pet Poison Helpline – 855-764-7661.
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center – 888-426-4435.

Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms. He is the author of his top selling memoir The Man In The White Coat: A Veterinarian’s Tail Of Love. In addition to this writing this blog, Dr. Welton also hosts the popular Space Coast Pet Podcast.  He is the CEO and chief attending veterinary of Premier Veterinary Care in Viera, FL.  


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