Dec 03 2015

Potential Holiday Hazards to Pets

If you suspect that your pet has ingested something poisonous, please do not hesitate to call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-4ANI-HELP (888-426-4435). If you have general concerns that something in your pet’s environment is impacting his or her health or well-being, please consult with your veterinarian.

List is from the website


  • Raw meat (including poultry)— parasites, E. coli, Salmonella, and other bacteria
  • Meat juices— bacteria
  • Meat-soaked string— can cause diarrhea and other digestive problems, or get tangled in the intestines; string is more enticing to pets when covered with meat or grease
  • Poultry bones— fragile and can splinter in the throat and intestinal tract
  • Raw egg— may cause biotin depletion; often harbors salmonella and other bacteria
  • Garlic/onions/chives/leeks— can cause a fatal anemia
  • Gravy— high fat content can lead to stomach upset and pancreatitis; often contains high levels of onion and garlic
  • Grapes/raisins— contain an unknown toxin that can damage the kidneys
  • Macadamia nuts— contain an unknown toxin that can damage the digestive system
  • Uncooked yeast— can expand in the stomach, causing gastric problems and possible rupture
  • Chocolate— contains theobromine, which affects the cardiovascular, nervous and digestive systems
  • Coffee/caffeine— contains xanthenes which can cause problems in the nervous, urinary, and cardiovascular systems
  • Xylitol— a sweetener found in many products; can be fatally toxic
  • Alcohol — even small amounts can cause intoxication and possibly death
  • Tobacco/nicotine— can cause serious digestive, cardiovascular and neurological effects
  • Garbage cans— may contain any or all of the above products

Plants (all can cause stomach upset and/or diarrhea)

  • Holly
  • Mistletoe
  • Poinsettias
  • Christmas cacti Evergreen needles Amaryllis Jerusalem cherry Pyracantha Rosary pea or Jequirity pea

Decorations and Wrapping

  • Ribbon/Yarn/String— can be ingested and cause intestinal obstruction and bunching of the intestine
  • Potpourri— dangerous essential oils
  • Candles— burning/fire hazard
  • Fireplace— shooting sparks and intense heat; consumption of ashes can lead to burns (if still smoldering) as well as digestive problems and possible intestinal impaction
  • Tinsel— choking and possible intestinal obstruction
  • Low-hanging ornaments— fragile ornaments can tear the esophagus and intestine if ingested
  • Christmas lights cords— strangulation and electrocution hazard
  • Food on the tree (popcorn, candy canes, gingerbread people)— varying degrees of indigestion, diarrhea, and other digestive problems

The Tree

  • Unstable tree— multiple dangers including broken ornaments, fallen tinsel and needles, and exposure to wires and other hazards on the tree
  • Artificial snow— mildly toxic but larger amounts can cause intestinal blockage
  • Ornaments— deep lacerations can occur from playing with ornaments; ornaments may be made of toxic materials
  • Tree Water— sap, insecticides, flame retardants, and fertilizers can seep into the water; bacteria can form over time; use skirt to cover basin

Gifts under the tree (or in any area accessible to pets)

  • Batteries— filled with harmful acids
  • Perfume/Aftershave/Cologne/Essential Oils— toxic to animals
  • Ribbons and bows— can cause choking and bunching or obstruction of the intestines

This list focuses mainly on potential holiday hazards. It is not inclusive of ALL potential holiday hazards or other potential non-holiday hazards. For more information, you may wish to visit the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center.

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