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Tips for a safe, hazard-free pet holiday

tips for safe pet holiday

The holiday season means food and fun combined with lots of hustle and bustle. A few simple precautions will keep your pet safe amid all the jolly chaos.


You can’t do holidays without decorations, but luckily, making pet-proofed choices won’t reduce your cheer. If you put a tree up, shatter-proof ornaments are the logical choice. Also, hang smaller ornaments toward the top of the tree to avoid a choking hazard. Salt dough ornaments might seem like a tasty snack to exploring pets but can cause electrolyte problems, so be sure these are out of reach as well. Tinsel is often irresistible to curious cats, and if ingested, it can become lodged in the gut and cause serious problems, so it’s best avoided altogether.

With the holiday season comes a delicious variety of baked goods, chocolate confections and other rich, fattening foods. Foods that can present problems for pets include:

•  Fruitcakes, breads and cookies that contain grapes, raisins and currants, which can cause kidney failure in dogs.

•   Chocolate and cocoa contain theobromine, a chemical similar to caffeine that’s highly toxic to both dogs and cats. Ingestion in small amounts can cause vomiting and diarrhea, but large amounts can cause seizures and heart arrhythmias.

•   Sugarless gums and candies that contain xylitol, a natural sweetener that causes a life-threatening drop in blood sugar and liver failure in dogs. 

•   Leftover fatty meat scraps can produce severe inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), leading to abdominal pain, vomiting and bloody diarrhea.

•   Unbaked bread dough leads to trouble when the yeast heats up inside the stomach and turns into ethanol and carbon dioxide. 


Lilies are very toxic to cats, and even one bite can cause irreversible kidney failure. Poinsettias get a bad rap, but the stomach upset they cause is much milder than the symptoms associated with holly, mistletoe and amaryllis. Although the tree is not toxic, its needles don’t digest well and its water may contain bacteria, mold or fertilizer that you definitely don’t want your best friend to ingest.

Be prepared for all the holiday “what ifs” with unlimited Live Chat through the myVCA app in case you need some quick advice. Our licensed veterinary professionals are standing by 24/7 to answer all your pet health and wellness questions.

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