Holiday Hazards

“Deck the halls with boughs of holly”…
Hold it! Not quite so fa la la la fast…there are some holiday hazards to keep in mind for our pets before we get too jolly this season. As much as we like to entertain with baked goods and festive decorations, there are some precautions we can take to make the holiday season safe for all to enjoy.


Despite popular belief, poinsettias are only mildly toxic.  They can cause mild vomiting or drooling and, if skin

exposure, may lead to redness and pruritus.  These signs are usually self-limiting and often require no treatment.

holiday-hazards.plants.mistletoeHolly and mistletoe are more likely to be a problem.  Mistletoe, eaten in small amounts, can cause drooling, vomiting and diarrhea.  In larger amounts, more serious effects such as arrhythmias, hypotension, collapse, ataxia, and seizures can be seen.  Holly leaves are spiny and when ingested can cause oral irritation (drooling, lip-smacking), vomiting and diarrhea.


With pets in the house tinsel (or icicles) should not be used on the tree.  This can be seen as a very tempting toy for cats and if ingested can cause a foreign body.  If owners see tinsel from the hind-end of their pet they should bring their animal in for an exam; in some cases, if there is no tension, it can be removed rectally.  The ribbon on presents can cause similar problems if ingested.

Ornaments on the tree, specifically glass ornaments, can break and cause injuries or foreign bodies if ingested.  These should be kept high on the tree, out of reach.  Hooks from the ornaments can also present a possible foreign body.

Liquid potpourri smells wonderful but can be problematic in cats.  The scented oils can lead to chemical burns in cats, even if only a small amount is ingested.  Clinical signs include pawing at the mouth, drooling, anorexia, vomiting, or difficulty breathing.  Dogs are less sensitive but it is still best to keep the liquid out of reach.

Baked Goods


‘Tis the season for baking wonderful cakes and cookies.  Fruitcakes containing grapes, raisins, and even currants can lead to renal failure in dogs.  Baker’s chocolate contains higher levels of the toxic substance theobromine compared to milk chocolate; smaller amounts can lead to clinical signs such as vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, and arrhythmias.  Cocoa powder contains the highest amount of the toxic substance; this is not to be confused with hot cocoa powder, which is less of a concern.


Fatty leftovers can cause gastrointestinal problems and pancreatitis, especially in susceptible breeds.



Alcohol toxicity can lead to decreased blood sugar, body temp and blood pressure.  In severe cases, seizures and respiratory failure can occur.  Alcohol can be found in things such as rum-soaked fruitcakes, brandy beans as well as unbaked yeast breads.  The yeast, as it ferments in the stomach, releases CO2 which can lead to bloat and GDV but also alcohol, which is rapidly absorbed in the bloodstream.

Let your veterinarian know if you have any questions or concerns.

“Good tidings to you and all of your kin”, good tidings for a safe and festive season.

Other Resources:

Pet Poison Helpline