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Holiday Dangers For Pets

Posted 12.20.16 by Drew McWatters, DVM

While the Holidays are the “most wonderful time of the year” for people, they can be a dangerous and stressful time for our pets. Here are some ways to keep your four legged family members safe during the holidays.

1) AVOID Holiday Food Items That Could Cause Problems For Your Pet:

A general rule of thumb is to avoid feeding your pets “human food”. The following foods are actually toxic and can be harmful or even fatal to your pets.

  • Alcoholic beveragesholiday-treats
  • Chocolate (baker’s, semi-sweet, milk chocolate)
  • Coffee (grounds, beans, chocolate covered espresso beans)
  • Moldy or spoiled foods
  • Onions, onion powder
  • Fatty foods
  • Salt
  • Yeast dough


While holiday plants and flowers are beautiful, some can be very dangerous to our pets.


  • Lilies that may be found in holiday flower arrangements could be deadly to your cat. Many types of lily, such as Tiger, Asian, Japanese Show, Easter, Stargazer, and the Casa Blanca, can cause kidney failure in cats.
  • Poinsettias, if ingested,  can be irritating to the mouth and stomach, and may cause mild vomiting or nausea.
  • Mistletoe has the potential to cause cardiovascular problems. However, mistletoe ingestion usually only causes gastrointestinal upset.
  • Holly ingestion could cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and lethargy.



Remember Aunt Bethany’s cat in Christmas Vacation? The tree can pose many dangers for the pets in your house.

  • Christmas tree water may contain fertilizers, which, if ingested, can cause stomach upset. Stagnant tree water can be breeding grounds for bacteria, which can also lead to vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea, if ingested.
  • Electric cords– Avoid animal exposure to electric cords. If they were chewed, they could electrocute your pet. Cover up or hide electric cords, never let your pet chew on them.
  • Ribbons or tinsel can get caught up in the intestines and cause intestinal
  • Batteries contain corrosives. If ingested they can cause ulceration to the mouth, tongue, and the rest of the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Glass ornaments can cut the tissues of the gastrointestinal tract if ingested.
  • Potpourris are popular household fragrances commonly used during the holiday season. Liquid potpourris can cause burns on the skin and in the mouth while dry potpourris can cause problems due to foreign body and (possibly) toxic plant ingestion.


Keep all prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs out of the reach of your pets, preferably in closed cabinets. Pain killers, cold medicines, anti-cancer, drugs, antidepressants, vitamins, and diet pills are common examples of human medication that could be potentially lethal even in small dosages. Remember that holiday houseguests may mean new medications in the house.

Never give your animal any medications unless under the directions of a veterinarian. Many medications that are used safely in humans can be deadly when used inappropriately.


  • Antifreeze has a pleasant taste. Unfortunately, very small amounts can be lethal.  Automotive products such as gasoline, oil and antifreeze should be stored in areas that are inaccessible to your pets. Propylene glycol is a safer form of antifreeze. Low Tox™ brand antifreeze contains propylene glycol and is recommended to use in pet households.
  • Ice melting products can be irritating to skin and mouth.
  • Rat and mouse killers are used more commonly during colder weather. When using rat and mouse bait, place the products in areas that are inaccessible to your companion animals.

Many pet emergencies will happen after hours. At The Pet Hospitals, our Collierville (18 S. Byhalia Rd) and Downtown (660 Jefferson Ave) locations are open 7 days a week to handle your daytime weekend emergencies and we always have a doctor on call 24/7 (even holidays) to answers questions and give medical advice. Just call our regular office number, 901-850-7330, and follow the prompts to speak with the on call doctor.

Have a Happy (and safe) Holidays!


Dr. Drew McWatters

The Pet Hospitals- Germantown


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