Holidays are the busiest, not just in our homes but at animal hospitals as well. It’s not like pet owners suddenly feel the need to go in droves to the ER with their pets during this time. That’s because with the holiday cheer also comes surprising hazards to our pets. We could easily get caught up in the preparation and forget to add extra preventive measures that keep our pets safe and healthy.

The adage “prevention is a whole lot less costly than treatment and even more effective” couldn’t be truer. So, to effectively prevent these ailments and injuries, here’s a list of dangerous food, plants and decorations to our pets during the holidays.


Dogs can give this oh-so-woeful look that causes humans to want to feed them scraps off the table. Not only that, their sense of smell will lead them to chew through your exquisitely-wrapped gifts that contain chocolates and coffee beans. Their sniffing prowess is wonderful at times but can cause unbelievable havoc when it gets the better of them. Make sure that your pets are safe by keeping the following out of their reach:

1. Caffeine

Truth is, caffeine is only lethal to our pets if they ingest a concentrated amount of 150mg per kilograms of weight. However, just a little amount of caffeine can cause severe hyperactivity, vomiting, hypertension, and in the worse cases, can cause seizures and collapse.

2. Macadamia Nuts

You’re watching “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and eating Macadamia nuts. Suddenly, Fido hops on the couch, looking at you expectantly. But don’t give in to Fido’s adorable begging! These nuts are highly toxic and can cause fever, vomiting, inability to walk, depression and weakness especially in the hind legs. If these nuts were covered with chocolate, you also have to look out for chocolate toxicity. If you see your dog eat even just one little piece, call your vet immediately. Also, keep an eye out for baked goods such as muffins, cakes, and cookies.

3. Chocolate

The holidays are not complete without chocolates! Unfortunately for Fido, chocolates are toxic to dogs. Humans easily absorb and process theobromine, the component found in cacao plants and tea leaves. Dogs metabolize theobromine much slower, thus allowing toxic levels to rise leading to diarrhea and vomiting (if ingested in small amounts) and heart attack and seizures if large amounts were swallowed.



4. Grapes and Raisins

Fruitcakes are most common during the holidays and with these yummy desserts come several ingredients that are toxic to dogs. Grapes and raisins are found in fruitcakes and are known to be highly toxic to dogs. Symptoms include lethargy, frequent urination, increased thirst, nausea, and vomiting. Eating grapes and raisins will not only cause acute kidney failure, but it’s fatal to our furkids as well.

5. Candies

Why can’t our dogs share the joy of eating candies with us? One word: Xylitol. This artificial sweetener is found in most candies, gums, breath mints, and most sugar-free food. Ingestion of xylitol can cause liver failure and death. Please note that even if candies contained sugar instead of xylitol, they’re still to be avoided. Naturally-occurring sugar found in fruits and yogurt, for instance, is fine and can be given in little amounts.

6. Bread Dough

If you’re baking bread or other pastries that contain yeast, it’s best to keep the unbaked bread dough out of your furkids’ reach.

Your pet’s stomach warm and moist environment allows the unbaked dough to expand and cause GDV or gastric-dilatation volvulus, commonly known as twisted stomach.

7. Alcohol

Don’t leave your open alcohol bottles where your pets can easily reach them. While nights with alcohol involved are common while celebrating Christmas and ushering in the new year, make sure to keep your furkids away from areas of the house where alcohol will be overflowing. Alcohol toxicity is fatal to both cats and dogs.

Symptoms include drowsiness, losing coordination, a drop in body temperature which can lead to metabolic acidosis where the blood becomes too acidic. If left untreated, your pet could go into cardiac arrest and die.


Did you know that dogs actually enjoy chewing on plants? If you’re like me and have discovered rows of chewed up plants in the backyard, then it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Dogs love to chew on the strangest things, and this natural chewing instinct has caused choking, stomach blockages, and poisoning if unsupervised. In this section, let’s take a look at the seasonal plants that are dangerous to our dogs.

8. Lilies

These flowers are some of the most beautiful and sought-after blooms during the holidays. And for humans who are not sensitive to scents, lilies are loved for their fragrance that lingers in rooms for days. But beauty is only skin deep. These flowers are toxic to dogs, causing gastrointestinal upset, foaming at the mouth and vomiting. Your cats aren’t safe either as these flowers can cause acute kidney failure in felines.

9. Mistletoe and Holly

Aside from poinsettias, mistletoe and holly are two of the most popular plants during this festive season. While we humans have this sweet tradition of kissing underneath a mistletoe, it’s not as sweet and safe for our poor dogs. Holly berries, even if dried, have high toxicity levels and should be kept out of your pet’s eager paws. Mistletoes contain toxalbumin and pharatoxin viscumin, substances that are highly toxic to our pets and cause a sudden drop in blood pressure and even hallucinations.

10. Poinsettias

Although poinsettias have lower toxicity levels compared to mistletoe and holly, they still are mildly toxic to our pets and it’s best to avoid using them as decoration. The plant’s sap causes irritation in the mouth and esophagus. Eating the leaves causes nausea and vomiting.

Although this plant can cause skin irritation, swelling, and itchiness, there’s no need to call your vet unless the symptoms are severe and persistent.

11. Amaryllis

The symptoms of amaryllis poisoning will differ depending on your pet’s health and size.

Dogs that are weak from an existing illness are more likely to experience more pronounced symptoms such as depression, abdominal distress, vomiting, low blood pressure, and respiratory problems.


‘Tis the season to decorate your homes with festive lights and ornaments! ‘Tis also the season for holiday hazards involving decorations such as fairy lights and tinsel. It’s best to be aware of these dangers so you can start pet-proofing your home ASAP.

12. Fairy Lights

As one of the most popular go-to holiday decorations, fairy lights are found in most homes. While it might be frivolity to some, most people love to indulge in using a lot of these lights: on Christmas trees, stairs, and even in bushes and potted plants outside our homes.

The twinkling lights can rouse the curiosity of our furry pals. Pet-proof your home and keep them away from the chewing prowess. Gnawing on these can electrocute and burn them.

13. Glow Sticks and Bracelets

There’s something glowing in the dark and it’s toxic for your dogs and cats. Although they’re just mildly toxic and not fatal, Glow sticks and jewelry contain dibutyl phthalate, a chemical that irritates your pet’s mouth.

The extremely bad taste prompts them to paw at their mouth, becoming agitated and irritated while hopefully trying to get rid of the horrible feeling.

14. Liquid Potpourris

With so many visitors coming and going, humans are more likely to use liquid potpourris to freshen up their homes. Unbeknownst to some pet parents, the concentrated fragrance can cause redness on the lips, tongue, and skin, weakness, walking and breathing difficulty, muscle tremors and drooling. Pets with liver diseases are more susceptible to potpourri poisoning.

Essential oils that are not safe for dogs and cats include cinnamon, citrus, sweet birch, tea tree, ylang-ylang, wintergreen, and peppermint. For a list of safe essential oils for your pets, check out the blog post Top 7 Essential Oils For Dogs from Natural Living Ideas.

15. Tinsel & Ornaments

Got cats at home? You’re better off having a bare tree than decorating it with tinsel. In fact, make sure to ban them at home forever. Swallowing tinsel, yarn, ribbon, or string is potentially life-threatening as ingestion of these foreign objects can cause blockages.

The tinsel can get stuck in the stomach or at the base of the tongue of your cats and dogs. A stomach blockage can result in intestinal rupture, abrasions and cuts which can be extremely painful for our poor furkids.

What to Do In Case of an Emergency

If you observe any of the plant, food and decoration symptom, call your veterinarian or the animal hospital immediately. Make sure to have the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center phone number (888-426-4435) on speed dial.

We know it’s impossible to take all these away from your homes during the holidays. Just make sure to pet-proof your homes for your pets’ wellbeing and safety. Got any ideas on how to keep your furkids safe? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.