Holiday Dangers for your Pet!

We at Riverstone Animal Hospital hope your family (4-legged and 2-!) are having a safe and happy holiday season. Here are a few things to keep in mind to keep your pets safe this Christmas!

Homemade Salt Dough (ornaments or play-dough)

There are recipes all over Facebook and Pinterest on how to make your own flour and salt dough to make beautiful homemade ornaments. If your dog knocks one of these off the tree and eats it however, the consequences can be fatal! The high amount of salt is extremely toxic. Salt poisoning in dogs and cats results in clinical signs of vomiting, diarrhea, inappetance, lethargy, walking drunk, abnormal fluid accumulation within the body, excessive thirst or urination, potential injury to the kidneys, tremors, seizures, coma, and even death when untreated.

Tinsel and Ribbons

When decorating your tree and wrapping or unwrapping gifts, keep a close eye on where you leave your leftover tinsel, string, and ribbons. These beautiful decorations may become a plaything for your cat. If he swallows them, they can get lodged in the digestive system and cause serious injury or death! Symptoms may take a few hours or several days to appear, and include vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, and decreased activity. Play it safe by keeping tinsel off the tree and collecting all ribbons and strings after gifts are opened.

Holiday Plants

Poinsettias, mistletoe, and holly are all mildly toxic to pets.

Poinsettias, for example have a milky white, latex sap that can irritate your animal’s mouth and stomach and may cause vomiting and diarrhea. “If your cat has snacked on poinsettia leaves, you can help him by picking up his food and water dishes for a couple of hours to let his stomach settle,”FDA veterinarian Carmela Stamper advises.

The National Animal Poison Control Center (NAPCC) states that the major toxic chemicals in mistletoe are lectins and phoratoxins. These chemicals affect the heart, causing low blood pressure and slowed heart rate.

“Fortunately for your cat, severe mistletoe toxicity is uncommon and usually occurs only if your pet eats a large amount,” Stamper explains. Symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea, difficulty breathing, slowed heart rate, low blood pressure, and odd behavior.

While holly isn’t as harmful, you should still discourage your pets from eating the berries and leaves, Stamper says. In both dogs and cats, the plant’s toxins can cause drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and decreased activity.

Chocolate, Chewing Gum, and Other Foods

Most people know that chocolate is toxic to dogs, so be sure to keep your stockings out of reach of pets. Xylitol, a compound found in many sugar-free chewing gums (and sometimes other sugar free foods) is highly poisonous.Symptoms occur quickly after dogs eat xylitol-containing items, Stamper says. Vomiting is generally first, followed by symptoms associated with the sudden lowering of your dog’s blood sugar (hypoglycemia), such as decreased activity, weakness, staggering, incoordination, collapse, and seizures. Check the package labels to see if they contain xylitol.

Some other toxic foods include macadamia nuts, grapes and raisins, and onions and garlic. If your pet has eaten any of these things, you can contact the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661 (a $49 per incident fee applies).

Table Scraps

Your guests may be sorely tempted to slip your dog some snacks while they are visiting. Keep plenty of low calorie dog treats handy to redirect those animal lovers! Fatty table scraps can cause a serious illness called pancreatitis. The most common symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs include vomiting, stomach pain, restlessness, shaking, diarrhea, fever, and weakness.In cats, the symptoms are less clear and harder to notice, such as decreased appetite and weight loss.

Also, be careful what you put in the trash can. Dogs are notorious for helping themselves to the turkey carcass or steak bones disposed of there. Bones can get stuck in your dog’s throat. Sharp pieces of bones can also injure your dog’s mouth, esophagus, and stomach, and can cause severe internal injuries.

Liquid Potpourri

If you are trying to make your house smell nice for guests this season, make sure to keep it contained where a cat can’t reach it. Liquid potpourris typically contain cationic detergents and essential oils that, if consumed by a cat, can cause severe chemical burns in the mouth, fever, difficulty breathing and tremors. Dogs are not as sensitive to the chemicals, but its best to keep potpourri out of their reach as well.

Electrical Cords

For some reason, cats are obsessed with Christmas trees. They like to climb them, they like to knock the ornaments off, and most dangerously, they like to chew on the lights. If you have naughty cats, please consider investing in chew-safe cord covers, they could save your kitty’s life!


With thanks to:

Family sends warning after dog eats christmas ornament, dies

FDA – Keep Your Dogs and Cats Safe From Holiday Hazards

Pet Poison Helpline – How to Keep Pets Safe this Holiday Season