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Georgia SPCA: Holiday Hazards

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Holiday Hazards for Your Pet: From Thanksgiving to New Year's Day

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The holidays are an exciting time for everyone. From Thanksgiving until New Year's Day, we enjoy special treats, beautiful decorations, parties and visits from friends and family. But in all of the excitement, it's important to remember that the holidays can also be stressful and even dangerous for our pets. You might be surprised at some of these potential hazards that our human celebrations can pose for our furry friends:

There is always more food around during the holidays, and our pets can get themselves into trouble when they smell something delicious and just can't resist a little taste—or more! And we humans might want to let our pets share in the holiday cheer by giving them a bit of the special treats we love. However, some of the ingredients in traditional holiday treats are the worst culprits.

  • Chocolate of any kind is toxic for pets, because it contains a chemical called theobromine. The darker the chocolate, the deadlier, and baking chocolate is the most dangerous. (Remember, your pet won't unwrap a piece of chocolate candy before eating it, and the wrapper alone can cause an intestinal blockage.)
  • Nuts and fat, cooked or uncooked, can be also toxic or fatal to pets.
  • Cooked bones may seem like a natural treat, but they can splinter and cause obstructions or lacerations in your pet's stomach or intestines.
  • Sugar-free snacks containing xylitol can also be toxic, especially to dogs.
  • Other foods to avoid are onions, uncooked yeast dough, raisins, grapes and any form of alcohol.
  • Remember to make sure your pet doesn't have access to table scraps and food you have put in the garbage following your big holiday meals. Many dogs love to raid the garbage can!

Anything new around the house is likely to attract your pet's attention, so pay special attention to decorations to make sure they don't pose a hazard.

The Christmas tree and what's under it:

  • Make sure your tree is well-secured so that a cat that likes to climb or a large dog with a happy, wagging tail won't bring it down.
  • Preservatives or other substances, such as aspirin or sugar, commonly added to water in the tree stand can cause gastric upset in pets, so don't use them, or make sure they are not accessible.
  • Make sure sharp or glass ornaments are out of your pet's reach; if they are knocked from the tree, they can break and cause cuts or choking if your pet swallows them. Tinsel is of particular concern, since it is shiny and can move in the breeze, attracting immediate attention. While not toxic, tinsel can twist and bunch in the stomach or intestines if ingested, and demands immediate medical attention. The same goes for ribbons used to make packages look festive. It's best to discard these quickly once all the gifts are unwrapped so that curious pets won't be tempted to chew on them.
  • Remember not to put wrapped gifts of food under the tree, since our pets' sense of smell is much stronger than ours, and it is hard for them to resist tearing into something that smells yummy.

Electrical Cords: The extra cords we use for holiday lights provide just that many more opportunities for both dogs and cats to chew, with the potential for electric shock, so be sure to secure cords, use grounded 3-prong plugs, and keep cords out of reach.

Candles: While it is never a good idea to leave lighted candles unattended, they are especially dangerous if left within your pet's reach. A candle's flame can seem like an irresistible new toy to pounce on or swat, and a wagging tail can easily knock a candle over. Either can cause burns or a fire.

Many plants are toxic to pets, or cause at least some level of gastrointestinal upset. A few that are commonly used during the holidays are mistletoe, poinsettia (the milky sap), holly (especially the berries), Christmas cactus, and lilies. And don't let your pet eat the needles from the Christmas tree, since they can cause gastrointestinal irritation or even perforation.


  • With more people coming and going, it is easier for your pets to slip outside unnoticed. Make sure pets are microchipped and wear collars with current tags to make it easier to recover them if they get lost.
  • Remind house guests to keep any medications they take—both over-the-counter and prescription--out of reach and in closed containers, since these can be toxic, and potentially lethal, to pets, even if only a small amount is ingested.
  • Remember that even your normally friendly pets may become distressed or anxious when faced with a house full of people or disruptions to their routine. Make sure you provide a place where your pets can retreat when all that celebrating is just too much of a good thing!

BE PREPARED: Despite your best efforts, accidents can still happen. In case your pet needs medical assistance, keep these important phone numbers in a convenient place:

  • Your veterinarian
  • Your nearest emergency vet clinic
  • ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center: 1-888-426-4435

By keeping your pets' diet and routine as normal as possible, and practicing just a bit of precaution and prevention, the holidays can be an enjoyable time for the whole family.

Source: The information contained in this article was compiled from the following websites:,,,,, and,, and



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