Holiday Hazards for Your Pet

'Tis the season for festive lights, hot cocoa, and your favorite treats! You don’t want to spoil all that holiday cheer with a trip to the emergency veterinary clinic though. It’s easy to get swept up in the festivities of the season, but don’t forget that added fun means added risks for your furry family members. We’re sharing some of the potential hazards to watch out for, so your pets remain safe during the holidays.


  • Turkey & Turkey Bones We all celebrate the holidays with our favorite festive meal! Many families choose to enjoy a nice turkey and want to share some with their furry friends. But beware, sometimes even small amounts of turkey and turkey skin can cause a life-threatening condition in pets known as pancreatitis. Ingesting turkey bones is also dangerous because of how easily they can splinter into sharp pieces. The splinters can get lodged in a pet’s throat or intestines causing punctures or blockages. Be sure to keep your turkey out of reach and secure any garbage bags that have food scraps in them!

  • Chocolate & Other Sweets Most sweets are too rich for pets but in general, it is best to keep all food, especially those that contains chocolate, out of reach of animals. The artificial sweetener called xylitol – commonly used in gum and sugar-free baked goods – can also be deadly if consumed by dogs or cats. Keep those sweet treats covered when you aren’t actively eating them and off surfaces where pets can reach them.

  • Alcohol Most alcohol consumption by animals occurs as a result of drinking from unattended glasses. But did you know that this can also be caused by the consumption of raw bread dough? The yeast in the dough ferments in an animal’s stomach where it releases alcohol ethanol. Alcohol consumption is incredibly dangerous causing vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, tremors, coma, central nervous system issues, and even death in pets.

  • Table Scraps Keep away from pets! We know; you want to share your holiday meal with your animal family members! But it’s always better to say no. During the holidays, when our diets turn to decadent foods, table scraps can be especially fattening and hard for animals to digest, causing pancreatitis. There are so many foods that are healthy for people that are poisonous to pets including onions, raisins, and grapes. Instead of sharing with them, give them their normal food with a few extra pet treats such as unseasoned pumpkin, carrots, or sweet potato so they can celebrate the season with you.


  • Christmas Tree Stability – Pets can get intrigued with bright lights and shiny ornaments on our trees and get very excited. Cats and dogs alike can approach the tree and knock it over in the blink of an eye. Do your best to secure the tree or put it in a place in your home your pet does not access as much to prevent a potential accident. 

  • Christmas Tree WaterSome trees are treated with chemicals as they grow that can seep into the Christmas tree water. Stagnant tree water can also build up bacteria over time, which is harmful if our pets decide to take a drink. Make sure to keep an eye on them around the tree.

  • Cords from Holiday Lights – Keep wires out of reach or covered. This can help discourage pets, particularly cats, from playing with or chewing them. If tampered with, lights can cause electrical burns and potentially electric shocks that could be deadly.

  • Decorative Plants – Plants like mistletoe, holly, and poinsettias are beautiful this time of year but can cause a range of problems if ingested. This can include vomiting, abdominal pain, cardiovascular problems, loss of appetite, and diarrhea.

  • Candles – While it’s traditional for menorah candles to remain lit for at least half an hour, leaving your pet alone near an open flame is always risky. Kennel your pets during this time or keep a close eye on them. Pets should never be left unsupervised around lit candles.

  • Tinsel and Ribbon – Cats are especially attracted to tinsel and ribbon, which can obstruct the digestive tract and cause severe vomiting and dehydration if ingested. Avoid using tinsel at all if you have a feline family member in the house, and keep ribbon out of reach.

  • Ornaments – Any ornament on the tree is a tempting toy for your pets. Fluffy, sparkly, low to the ground, you name it, your pets will scope it out on the tree. Though not poisonous, many ornaments (especially those made of glass or those with sharp edges) can be dangerous. Hang lightweight glass ornaments near the top of the tree or use shatterproof ornaments.

  • Liquid Potpourri – Cats are particularly attracted to liquid potpourri. But the liquid is hot which can burn their fur and mouths in addition to causing gastrointestinal problems if ingested.


  • New Year's distractions – Confetti, noisy poppers and fireworks are all potential hazards for pets. Confetti can get lodged in a pet’s intestines if ingested. Noisy poppers can scare pets and might do damage to sensitive ears. And fireworks scare many animals causing them to run if they escape. Keep them secured and safe around midnight.
  • Houseguests – Stress from visiting relatives and friends, as well as an altered schedule, can manifest in a variety of ways, including vomiting and gastrointestinal issues. Create a “safe, quiet zone” for your pets where they can retreat until the activity of the holidays is over. 

  • Watch the exits - Even if your pets are comfortable around guests, watch them closely, especially when people are coming and going from your home. While you're welcoming guests and collecting coats, a four-legged family member may make a break for it out the door and become lost. Be sure your pet’s microchip and nametag are updated just in case, and use the DoveLewis online Lost and Found Database, if necessary.

  • Holiday Travel – Going to visit family and plan on bringing your pet along? When traveling in a car, pets should always be safely restrained and should never be left alone in the car, in any weather. Proper pet safety when traveling in your car means using a secure harness or a carrier, placed in a location clear of airbags. Never transport your pet in the bed of a truck. Be sure to pack for your pet just like you would pack for yourself. Ensure you have their food, medications, first aid supplies, and any other important items your pet needs to feel comfortable. Heading out of town and planning to board your dog? Talk with your veterinarian to find out how best to protect your pet from canine flu, other contagious diseases, and to make sure your pet is up-to-date on vaccines.

Holiday Pet Safety


Download Holiday Hazards for your Pet Infographic


Quick Action Can Save Lives

If you believe that your animal is ill or may have ingested a toxic substance, contact your local veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435.

If your pet needs care, call your primary veterinarian if they are available or call us at 503-228-7281 for help if you see any signs of pet distress including sudden changes in behavior, depression, pain, vomiting, or diarrhea. We have veterinary technicians available 24/7 to help.



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