Keeping Your Pet Safe During the Holidays

The holiday season is here and it brings with it many reasons to celebrate and enjoy the fellowship of friends and family. With feasts, presents, and decorations galore it is important to know the best ways to keep your furry best friend safe so that they can enjoy the holiday season, too!

What Your Pet Should Not Eat 

Even though our pets may enjoy a little snack from the table, it may not be the best thing for them. There are a number of everyday foods that are toxic to dogs and cats that are especially present around the holidays.  

  • Onions and other members of the Allium family can be especially toxic to dogs and cats. This includes garlic, leeks, shallots, and chives. Toxicity has been seen with the ingestion of raw, cooked, dried, and powdered plant material. In some animals, even small amounts have resulted in toxicity. Vomiting, lethargy, and anemia are the main problems that are seen when a pet has ingested one of the plants from this family.
  • Grapes and Raisins are more well known to cause toxicity. Unfortunately, the exact cause of the toxicity from grapes in raisins has not been discovered. It is also not known how much needs to be ingested to cause toxicity. Because of these variables, any ingestion of grapes and/or raisins is considered potentially toxic. If a toxic dose is ingested, kidney failure may occur.
  • Rising bread dough ingestion can be life-threatening. The body heat from the animal will cause the dough to continue to expand. During this, a gas called ethanol is produced as the dough rises to several times its size. Problems are caused both by the increase in the size of the dough and the gas that is produced. Pets can experience severe abdominal pain, bloating, vomiting, incoordination, and lethargy.
  • Chocolate is another well-known cause of toxicity. Dogs are much more sensitive than humans to the theobromine and caffeine contained in chocolate. The amount of theobromine and caffeine that are contained in the chocolate will vary depending on what kind it is. The rule of thumb to follow is the more bitter the chocolate, the more toxic it could be. Depending on how much has been ingested, chocolate can cause hyperactivity, increased heart rate, tremors, seizures, and in severe cases, death. Bones may not be toxic but can still cause their own host of problems.
  • Poultry and pork bones and cooked bones of any kind can splinter and cause severe damage to a pet’s mouth, esophagus, or intestines. The injuries can be serious enough to require emergency surgery. Even if they don’t cause injury, ingestion of bones can also cause a digestive upset like vomiting and diarrhea, and could even cause pancreatitis.
  • Fat trimmings may seem like a safer option than bones. However, a sudden introduction of high-fat foods in your pet’s diet can cause similar issues such as vomiting, diarrhea, and potentially pancreatitis.

The list above covers the most frequently encountered toxic foods during the holidays but is not a complete list. Although it is very tempting to share in the celebrations with your pet, it is best to avoid giving Fluffy or Fido anything from the dinner table.

If you are concerned that your pet has or may have eaten one of the above foods, please call us immediately (678) 985-5530.


Decoration Hazards  

Additional holiday dangers may not be as obvious as foods. Several items associated with presents and decorations can be cause for concerns with both dogs and cats.  

  • Tinsel is especially attractive to cats. Nothing is better than chasing down a piece of that glittery wonder and gulping it down! Unfortunately, tinsel is highly prone to getting caught in the intestines and requiring surgical removal. Curling ribbon, garland, and strings all carry the same risks. Although cats are the most likely to go after these items, dogs may be tempted to eat them as well.
  • Lights are so beautiful the way they twinkle! Your pet may think so, too! Lights (specifically their cords) can be tempting for dogs and cats, especially younger ones. Chewing on these cords can cause electrical shock. The injuries related to electrical shock can range from tongue ulcerations, difficulty breathing, and even death.

Keeping your pet safe during the holidays

How Can You Keep Your Pet Safe?  

Some simple steps can help to give you comfort and peace of mind this holiday season. Save the holiday feast for the humans. Make sure to tell your guests as well! It may be even better to let your pet rest in a bedroom while everyone is eating to help avoid an accidental “treats”.

Skip the tinsel. Make sure to keep curling ribbon, garland, and strings out of your pets reach. Inspect your lights and make sure the cords are free of any frays or damage. Keep an eye on your pet to see if they are showing any interest in the lights. If so, see if you can keep your pet away from them, just to be safe!

Check out these tips from the AVMA for more ways to keep your pet safe.


  • Don't leave your pet alone in the room with lit candles, a decorated tree or potpourri.
  • Keep holiday plants (especially holly, mistletoe, and lilies) out of reach of pets.
  • Secure your Christmas tree to keep it from falling over if your dog bumps it or your cat climbs it. Hanging lemon-scented car air fresheners in the tree may deter your cat from climbing it.
  • Provide a safe place for your pet to escape the excitement (such as a kennel, crate, perching place, scratching post shelf or hiding place) if you’re entertaining guests. If your pet is excitable or scared, consider putting your pet in another room with some toys and a comfortable bed.

If your pet experiences a holiday emergency, please call our 24-hour vet care line at (678) 985-5530. When you call, one of our experienced emergency vet care team members can help assess the situation and determine whether your pet needs to be seen by our emergency team.

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