Watch Out For These Holiday Dangers and What You Can Do About Them

Dog at Christmas

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The holidays are here and we definitely want to have a lot of fun with our furry friends. But we also have to be aware of the possible holiday dangers for pets.

Things are about to get really busy this holiday season. If you are not running around shopping and setting up festive decorations, you are cooking large meals and entertaining a lot of guests.

Our furry friends can easily get forgotten in the holiday frenzy. They may decide to keep themselves entertained with some of the new items that mysterious Santa brought to them.

Also, some pet parents will want to spoil their furry animals to human food this holiday season. What seems like a harmless show of kindness poses a threat to the health of our furry or feathered friends.

Your pet will be tempted to nibble on anything around the house. It could be a plant or human food served to him. A lot of these edible or non-edible items can be dangerous. And it is good if you know about them.

Here is a list of potential holiday dangers for pets you should be aware of.

Holiday Dangers for Pets: Plants


A kiss under the mistletoe is very charming. But for our pets, mistletoe can be harmful if ingested. Mistletoe has berries that contain the chemicals pharatoxin viscumin and toxalbumin.  If your pet eats the berries, they can suffer the following symptoms:

  • Stomach aches
  • Skin irritation
  • Nausea
  • Nervous system issues

Early symptoms of mistletoe poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, and dizziness. Too much of these poisonous berries can lead to comas, heart problems or sudden death.


Poinsettias leaves are colorful and glimmer under Christmas lights. Yet, these leaves can cause digestive problems to your cat when ingested. The sap produced by Poinsettias leaves has a toxic chemical that causes vomiting and diarrhea. Some pets develop skin irritation when the sap drips on their coat. Other symptoms of poinsettia toxicity include;

  • Drooling
  • Nausea


Hollies help create a warm festive ambiance in our homes. Sadly, holly berries can cause health problems when eaten by both kids and pets. Holly berries contain the chemical theobromine.

Theobromine is a stimulant like caffeine. High amounts of theobromine can cause serious health problems. In pets, theobromine can cause;

  • Hyperactivity
  • Muscle tremor
  • Low blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat


Hellebore is white in color and equally adds a dash of pristine and warmth to your festive decor. But just like holly and poinsettia, hellebore has toxic ingredients that can harm your pet especially cats. When ingested, this plant can cause

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Paralysis


Amaryllis makes your festive bouquet look colorful. But do not let all that color fool you. One bite of the amaryllis petal can send your pet into a bout of diarrhea. Also, the petal or bulb of the Amaryllis plant can cause;

  • Muscle weakness
  • Cardiovascular issues
  • Nervous

Christmas tree

I know, your pet loves to take a snooze under the glittering Christmas tree. While this is soothing to them, it can get dangerous should they decide to nibble on anything around them. Unless it is a fake Christmas tree, you should never let your dog anywhere near the Christmas tree.

The needle-like leaves of a Christmas tree can puncture your pet’s throat if swallowed. The leaves may also get stuck around the throat causing irritation or swallowing problems. If your pet manages to swallow the leaves, they end up causing digestive problems.

Always sweep away the fallen Christmas tree leaves to minimize any incidences.

If you suspect your pets have been poisoned, contact the 24-hour ASPCA Poison Control Hotline at (888) 426-4435.

Holiday Dangers for Pets: Harmful Foods

Fatty meats

No matter how much your pet whines and wags his tail for a rasher of bacon, you should never give in to such demands. Fatty meats like bacon or ham may taste good to the tongue but it will hurt your precious pet later on. The high salts and fats in such meats can cause instant stomach upsets leading to diarrhea.

The high salts may also cause your pet to drink a lot of water causing them to bloat. But the real danger of bacon or ham is the high levels of bad cholesterol. These fats get stored in the body making your dog put on weight.

Too much cholesterol in the body can lead to the development of gallstones. If you know how painful gallstones are, you would not want the same ordeal for your dog. When gallstones build up in the body, they can cause pancreatitis in cats and dogs.

Onion & Garlic

Imagine your precious feline or canine walking around with garlic breath. Pungent right? But that’s not the only issue your pet will have with garlic and onions. Too much of these two ingredients can be toxic to your pet.

Garlic contains harmful compounds that can cause your pet’s red blood cells to rapture. Vets refer to this condition as Heinz body anemia, a condition that causes body weakness in your pet. Onions have the same effect on your dog, though the toxicity in garlic is higher.


Pets love chocolate just as we do. But it is not the sugar in chocolate that they are drawn to. It is the fats and salts contained in this sweet condiment that your pet cannot resist.

A little chocolate is harmless to your pet. But if you continuously feed them bits of chocolate, they can become sick. Chocolate contains the ingredient culprit theobromine, an active ingredient in the holly plant.

Dark chocolate is by far the most dangerous to pets. Theobromine concentration in dark chocolate is higher compared to white chocolate. Your dog can easily suffer;

  • Seizures
  • Increase heart rate
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Body tremors

Never let your pet consume too much chocolate at once. It can lead to instant death.


Researchers have not yet discovered why berries like grapes are toxic to pets. But before we get that revelation, it is best to keep your pet away from grapes and any other berry you are unsure of. Grapes contain a toxic compound that can cause renal failure in your pet. Some berries contain seeds that can choke your dog when ingested.

And we are not talking grapes alone. Keep your dog away from blueberries, red currants, blackberries, or black currants. Until a professional vet gives your dog the green-light to have these fruits.

Raw Meat

If your pet has never been on a raw food diet, you should keep them away from raw meat. Consumption of raw meat can introduce parasites like E. coli and salmonella into your pet’s system. This can cause instant vomiting and diarrhea in your pet. For pets that have weak immune systems, the symptoms can worsen.

Stick to cooked pet food this holiday season. If you are trying to switch your pet to raw food, do it gradually.


There is plenty of candy going around during the holidays. If your pet is not trick-or-treating with the kids, he is gladly chewing on some candy canes for Christmas. Candy is filled with artificial sweeteners and coloring that can harm your pet.

Your pet may steel a gummy bear or two which is harmless. But if the pet continues to chew on candy unsupervised it can cause serious health issues. Too much candy can cause stomach upsets, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Sweetened Foods

We are talking about cakes, soda, jelly beans, cookies, sweetened beverages and anything else you can name with artificial sugar in it. Such foods will only cause stomach aches, vomiting, or diarrhea when continually consumed by a pet.

Pets digest sugary foods slower than humans. Most of this sugar ends up as unnecessary body fat leading to obesity.

Dairy Products

Another bummer for the ice cream loving canine or feline. Ice cream and any other milk-based products can trigger stomach issues in your pet. Some pets suffered tummy pains and diarrhea after consuming milk-based products. Most dairy products can trigger food allergies in your pet as well.


Macadamia, pistachios, almonds, cashews, and any other nut you know of are a no-go zone for pets. Raw nuts like macadamia can instantly make your pet sick when ingested. Symptoms to look out for include;

  • Increased body temperature
  • Muscle weakness and tremors
  • Weakness in hind legs

Some nuts when swallowed can choke your pet as well. Keep your pet away from all raw or cooked nuts during this holiday season.

Other Holiday Dangers For Pets

Christmas decorations that are harmful to dogs and cats

Gift Wrap & Ribbon

 Gift wrap paper and ribbons look colorful and glittery for any pet to resist. They will be drawn to the material to investigate and some pets will go as far as nibbling on the material to see what it is made of.

Gift wrap and ribbon material contain a toxic lead compound known as chromium. Chromium can cause brain damage or trigger cancer cells in your pet. Do not let your pets play with gift wrapping paper or ribbons.


Tinsel mimic snowflakes creating that enchanting feel on our holiday decor. Tinsel is not toxic when swallowed. But it is made of a tough material that can lacerate the intestinal tract of your dog. Large pieces of tinsel can lodge in your pet’s throat causing them to choke.

Holiday Lights

That flashing of holiday lights is bound to attract your pet. Cats and small breed dogs are the biggest culprits when it comes to playing around holiday lights. They will get themselves tangled in the lights and chew on the cords. Your pet can get electrocuted by the cords. Should the light bulbs break, they can lacerate your pet’s tongue or gums. God forbid if your precious canine or feline swallows a light bulb.


Some pets have a weird behavior of chewing on candle wax. While it is not toxic, candle wax can cause stomach upsets in your pet. Melted candle wax can burn your pet’s mouth as well. Scented candles may contain chemicals that can cause further health problems.


Holiday dangers for pets do not happen indoors alone, they happen outdoors as well. Though winter brings goodies like snowflakes, it also brings chilly weather that may not be safe for your pet.

Extremely cold weather is not good for your pet. It can cause hypothermia, especially in pets that do not have a dense coat. The cold snow can also cause frostbite injuries to your pet’s vulnerable paws, ears, and tail.

How can I protect my pet this holiday season?

Dog dressed like a Christmas reindeer

You have learned about all the possible threats facing your pet this holiday. Now, what can you do to ensure your pet stays safe through the merry-making season? Fortunately, we got that covered for you.

  • Pet gates – the only way to make sure your pet does not visit the Christmas tree is by installing gates around it. This allows them to still enjoy the decoration from a safe distance. 
  • Invest in strong storage boxes – use storage boxes to keep away any remaining decorative material. This includes tinsel, holiday lights, ribbons, or gift wrap paper. Store the boxes in an area your pets cannot reach.
  • Choking – go to your pet’s rescue if they are choking on tinsel or whole nuts. If it is a puppy or a toy breed, hold them by the hind legs and gently shake them. This can help them cough out swallowed objects. For bigger dogs and cats, gently open the animal’s mouth and see if you can see the object causing distress. Do not stick a finger or an object down your pet’s throat if you cannot see what is choking them. Rush the pet to a vet clinic to have the emergency professionally addressed.
  • Keep your pet warm – do not let your pet go out in the cold weather without warm clothing. Get them pet winter coats and paw boots to keep warm and protect them from hypothermia and frostbite.
  • Control your dog’s meals – no matter how tempting it is, do not switch your dog’s current diet. You can bake them tasty holiday cookies to celebrate the merry-making season. Try to keep your pet away during meal times. This prevents them from eating the morsels that fall from the table or tossed at them by guests. 
  • ASPCA Poison Control Hotline – If you suspect your pets have been poisoned, contact the 24-hour ASPCA Poison Control Hotline at (888) 426-4435.


The above tips should help keep your pet away from harm’s way as you celebrate the holidays. If you have too much on your plate, you could always hire a pet sitter to keep an eye on your precious pet.

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