CVMA | Documents | Pet Safety During the Holiday Season

Pet Safety During the Holiday Season

December 1, 2014

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can be stressful and sometimes dangerous for pets. Encounters with strangers, bright Christmas lights, chocolate treats and fatty table scraps are just a few holiday dangers a pet may encounter. The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association offers the following tips for pet owners and their animals to enjoy a safe and happy holiday season.

Holiday Food & Drink

Alcohol: Dogs in particular may be attracted to alcoholic beverages. Alcohol is a dangerous substance for pets, so keep drinks and bottles out of reach at all times. Signs of alcohol intoxication in pets may include vomiting, wobbly gait, depression, disorientation, and/or low body temperature. If alcohol ingestion is suspected, bring your pet to see a veterinarian immediately.

Chocolate: All foods containing chocolate, which can be toxic to animals, should be safely stored away in areas inaccessible to pets.

Poultry bones: Avoid feeding poultry bones to cats and dogs. A turkey bone can splinter and become lodged in the throat or further down the digestive system.

Table scraps: Many pets are adept at finding food on counter tops and tables, so keep the meal out of reach. Ask guests not to feed your pet table scraps.

Xylitol: Ingestion of this low-calorie artificial sweetener found in chewing gum, candies and baked goods from grocery stores or bakeries can lead to liver injury or even liver failure.

Christmas Trees

Christmas trees with their prickly pine needles, wire hooks, shiny ribbons, and small ingestible ornaments are particularly hazardous. Tinsel, which is sparkly and attractive to pets (especially cats), can cause blockages in their intestines, leading to an emergency trip to the veterinary hospital. Chewing on Christmas light cords could shock, burn or electrocute a pet. Christmas tree water can also be harmful to pets.

Hazardous Holiday Plants

Holly: Ingestion is most commonly associated with signs such as digestive upset and nervous system depression. Holly has some of the same toxic components as chocolate (caffeine, theobromine).

Mistletoe: Can produce quite severe irritation of the digestive tract, as well as whole body symptoms including low heart rate and temperature, difficulty breathing, unsteadiness, excess thirst, and sometimes seizures, coma, and even death.

Poinsettia: Ingestion of leaves generally causes mild to moderate digestive upsets. Excess saliva, vomiting, and diarrhea may also result.

If you suspect your pet has chewed or ingested something unusual, call your veterinarian immediately. Do not wait until the end of a weekend, or overnight for regular office hours. Some toxins can damage internal organs and may cause significant (and perhaps irreversible) injury in a short time frame.