Holiday Pet Hazards: Tinsel, Alcohol, and Poinsettias, Oh My!

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Small dog eating table scraps

Holiday Pet Hazards: Tinsel, Alcohol, and Poinsettias, Oh My!

Table scraps

That's right; table scraps are a no-no any time of the year, but they are a common holiday pet hazard, too.  Maybe your guests think it's nice to sneak your dog or cat some food, or maybe you feel obligated to make your pet a holiday meal, but these scenarios can put your pet's health at risk. As much as pets may love table scraps, human food and how it's prepared isn't usually made with pet health in mind. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notes fatty, salty foods can cause life-threatening issues for pets, including pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas. Human food can also make pets violently ill, with the most common symptoms being vomiting and diarrhea. “Poultry bones are especially dangerous as these bones can crack and splinter causing damage to the gastrointestinal tract and require emergency surgery to repair,” said Dr. D’Ambrose. “Secondly, large fatty meals of human food can causes a dangerous life threatening condition known as pancreatitis.” Certain foods also carry specific risks during the holidays. Desserts with chocolate can poison your dog or cat, as chocolate is toxic to pets.  Dr. D’Ambrose noted onions, garlic, grapes and raisins are also holiday favorites that can cause harm to our furry friends. (See a more complete list of dangerous food for pets HERE.)

Dog hiding under blanket

Holiday Pet Hazards: Tinsel, Alcohol, and Poinsettias, Oh My!

Large gatherings

While parties themselves aren't holiday pet hazards, the loud noises and appearance of strangers can be stressful for a pet. The AAHA recommends separating pets from holiday gatherings so they don't feel threatened, or tempted to scoot out an open door because they are anxious. If you can't isolate pets, make sure they have a place to escape to, somewhere quiet where they can feel safe. Cracking open a bedroom door, for example, so a pet can retreat inside, is one option. If you are in a small space, make sure guests know to be aware of pets and not to carelessly leave outside doors open. “Also, discuss with guests not to feed anything to your pets except pet specific treats and food. If your guests cannot be trusted, consider keeping your pets in a separate room while company is over,” said Dr. D’Ambrose in closure.

Cat playing with Christmas tree decorations

Holiday Pet Hazards: Tinsel, Alcohol, and Poinsettias, Oh My!

Christmas tree

The Christmas tree poses a few holiday pet risks. First, it can tip over if not secured. While most pets are probably the cause of this problem, it also means they are probably beneath the tree when it tumbles and might get hurt.  Another Christmas tree hazard is the ornaments. Edible ornaments and fragile ones could injure your pet. Remember, you have to think like a cat or a dog. Does it look tempting to eat or play with? If yes, make sure it can't break or be eaten.  Finally, Christmas tree water can pose a risk for pets. Water that has become stagnant or has additives can cause vomiting or diarrhea, notes AAHA. “In addition, keep decorations such are plants, ornaments, garland, and tinsel out of reach from your pets. Maybe, don't place ornaments on the bottom part of your tree if your pet has an obsession with ornaments - like my cat,” Dr. D’Ambrose cautioned.

Puppy dog with bottle of alcohol

Holiday Pet Hazards: Tinsel, Alcohol, and Poinsettias, Oh My!


Alcohol is always a dangerous for your pet, regardless of the time of year. But during the holidays, people may indulge more than normal--and with different beverages. If you think your cat or dog won't get into the beer, you may be right, but what about that flavorful eggnog? Alcohol in this form might be more enticing to your pet when left out on the counter, unsupervised. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) states alcohol consumption by pets can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma, and even death. It is classified as animal cruelty to deliberately get your pet drunk, and is punishable by law. “Over the Holidays common emergencies we see in dogs and cats are related to feeding table scraps. With so many guests in our homes and delicious food all around it’s hard to keep track of exactly what might be fed under the table,” Dr. Steven D'Ambrose of Banfield Pet Hospital told saludmóvil™.

Dog smelling flowers

Holiday Pet Hazards: Tinsel, Alcohol, and Poinsettias, Oh My!

Toxic plants

There is a very long list of plants that are poisonous to pets (take a peek at the ASPCA list HERE). But there is one plant we see this time of year that is often overlooked as a holiday pet hazard.  Poinsettias are a traditional decoration during the holidays, but the plant is very toxic to both dogs and cats. Consumption can cause vomiting and diarrhea, and may irritate the mouth and intestinal tract. If you're a cat owner, you know how those loveable little guys like to chew on houseplants, so keep poinsettias out of reach. Another holiday plant to be wary of is mistletoe. While severe poisoning from this plant is uncommon, small portions can cause vomiting and diarrhea, difficulty breathing, slowed heart rate, low blood pressure, and odd behavior.

Puppy wrapped around tinsel

Holiday Pet Hazards: Tinsel, Alcohol, and Poinsettias, Oh My!

Tinsel, string, and ribbons

You might not think of tinsel and ribbon as pet hazards, but when it comes to cats, and their obsession for things shiny and string-like, these decorations can be bad news.  The ASPCA notes tinsel can cause an obstruction in the intestines that might lead to severe vomiting, dehydration, and the need for surgery. Tinsel and string can also get wrapped around the tongue or get hung up around teeth in the mouth. What's more, never pull on a piece of string, ribbon, or tinsel trailing out of your cat's butt hole. If the string is long enough, it could be entangled in the intestines, and pulling on it might cause severe internal damage. In this situation, take your cat to the vet immediately for diagnostic imaging.

Dog wrapped around Christmass lights

Holiday Pet Hazards: Tinsel, Alcohol, and Poinsettias, Oh My!

Lights and candles

What would the holidays be without beautiful lights and festive candles? For pets, a whole lot safer! Not only do candles pose a burn risk from their flames, if they get knocked over, the hot wax can burn your pet. Some pets (who knows why!) will drink candle wax, and the Pet Poison Helpline indicates this can cause chemical burns, fever, tremor, and difficulty breathing.  As for special lights, pets may not be after the bulb, but they often are tempted to chew on wires. Make sure wires are out of reach, or concealed to avoid burns and electrocution.

Dog wrapped around Christmass lights

With more than 70 million dogs and 74 million cats in the United States, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), it’s important to remember our furry friends this time of year, but it’s even more important to recognize holiday pet hazards in our homes.

Holiday hazards for pets can range from dangerous decorative plants and common decorations, to alcoholic beverages stored for our guests. By brushing up on your awareness of these dangers, you can make sure pets stay safe during the holidays.

Your Responsibility to Your Pets during the Holidays

Ultimately, your pets are under your care, and that means it’s up to you to avoid holiday pet hazards. Don’t get mad at your dog or cat for taking advantage of left-out eggnog, chewing on plants, or for playing with tempting ornaments. They are just doing what comes naturally to them.  If your pet comes in contact with something dangerous, the Pet Poison Helpline is available 24 hours a day. In addition to questions about toxicity, the experts available can offer advice on common pet hazards. They can be reached at 1-855-764-7661.

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