The holidays are a time of joy and celebration. They are also busy days in animal emergency rooms around the country. Keep your pet out of harm’s way by learning about some of the most common holiday dangers and making pet safety a holiday priority.


Many people worry about poinsettias, but these showy red plants are only mildly toxic to pets. Far more dangerous are lilies, holly and mistletoe. Ingestion of a few lily petals or leaves or a little of the water from a bouquet can cause kidney failure and death in a cat. Mistletoe can cause severe vomiting, diarrhea, shock and death in both cats and dogs, and many holly berries are toxic to pets. If you want the look of these plants, go with artificial products to protect your pets.


Scented candles and potpourri fill the house with holiday smells, but they can be hazardous to pets. Curious cats and dogs love to knock over candles, and many liquid potpourri products are extremely toxic to cats. To be safe, use LED candles for light, supervise open flames closely and skip liquid potpourri products.


Cats and dogs love to investigate the Christmas tree, but it can be a source of health hazards. Use the tips below to set up a pet-friendly display.

  • Secure the tree so pets cannot tip it over.
  • If you need water additives to preserve the tree, use pet-safe products. Also, change the water often to prevent bacterial overgrowth. This is especially important if pets can easily access the water. Dogs and cats love novel water sources.
  • Skip the tinsel if you have cats. Cats love tinsel, but when they ingest it, it can damage and obstruct their intestines. This is a life-threatening surgical emergency.
  • Secure wires. Cats and some dogs love to chew them, but this can cause nasty shocks, serious burns and even death.
  • Keep battery-powered ornaments out of reach of pets. Punctured batteries lead to burns from battery acid.
  • If pets can reach ornaments, use shatterproof ones. Cats and dogs love to knock ornaments off the tree, and shards of broken ornaments can cause serious injuries.


While all breakable ornaments pose a danger to pets, snow globes and bubble lights can be particularly hazardous. Some imported snow globes use ethylene glycol in the water mixture. This is the same compound that is found in antifreeze, and it is deadly to both dogs and cats. Bubble lights also contain a toxic substance. Keep these decorations out of reach of your pets.


It is tempting to share holiday treats with pets, but this is generally a bad idea. Some tips to help keep pets safe include the following:

  • Alcohol and animals don’t mix. Pets are sensitive to alcohol and can quickly become dangerously intoxicated.
  • Keep grapes, raisins and currants away from dogs. These can cause severe liver damage.
  • Cats and dogs should not have chocolate. While an occasional bite of something chocolatey won’t cause serious problems, large ingestions can be dangerous or even fatal. In general, the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is, so be especially careful with baking chocolate.
  • Keep bones, especially cooked and cut bones that splinter easily, away from pets.
  • Bread dough from holiday baking can cause bloat and intoxication, so keep it away from dogs.
  • Some cats and most dogs adore fatty scraps, but overindulging in these can cause vomiting and diarrhea. In dogs, it can also contribute to inflammation of the pancreas. Resist the temptation to let pets gorge themselves on holiday fare.
  • Beware of sugarless candy, gum and baked goods. Many of these items contain xylitol. This sugar substitute causes a potentially fatal drop in blood sugar in dogs and can damage the liver.

Remember that your love is the best gift you can give your pets over the holidays. Keep them safe so that everyone in the house has a joyous season.