Holiday Hazards [keeping pets safe and happy as you celebrate]


The holidays are a time for celebration, and also a time to keep an eye on your pooch or kitty. A sparkling bauble or a yummy holiday treat may prove to be too tempting – and dangerous – for a curious pet. Thankfully, most holiday plants and food will only cause a minor tummy upset. However, vigilance is the key, as animals may experience different reactions to substances based on breed, size and age. If you’re in doubt on the dangers of something the pet ingested, call your vet immediately. Or call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. The telephone number is (888) 426-4435. There is a $55 consultation fee for this service.

Below (alphabetically) are just some of the holiday hazards to look out for presented by the ASPCA Animal Control Center Check out the site for a more comprehensive list, as well as how to make your home safer for your pet, not just at the holidays but throughout the year.


Depending on the amount ingested, alcohol can potentially result in vomiting, diarrhea, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, acidosis, coma and even death.

Anise can be found in holiday cookies. If large amounts are ingested, gastrointestinal tract irritation and minor central nervous system depression can be seen in dogs. The quantity used in baking should not pose a problem, though.

Raw or in guacamole. The Guatemalan variety, which is the most common variety found in stores, appears to be the most problematic. Concern in dogs is with gastrointestinal (GI) irritation, including vomiting and diarrhea. Birds appear to be particularly sensitive and can develop respiratory distress, generalized congestion, fluid accumulation around the tissues of the heart, and possibly death.

Alkaline batteries contain corrosives, which can potentially result in the development of oral and gastrointestinal (GI) ulcers, or even perforation of the GI tract. Due to their corrosive nature, pet owners should never attempt to induce vomiting. These batteries also contain zinc, and while zinc poisoning is uncommon from battery ingestions, the possibility still exists if enough zinc leaks out of the battery casing.

Pet owners should note that even if a pet swallows a battery whole without puncturing it, problems could still result – such as an intestinal obstruction.


Significant amounts of gum or candies solely or largely sweetened with xylitol may develop a fairly sudden drop in blood sugar, resulting in depression, loss of coordination and seizures.

If ingested in significant amounts, chocolate and coffee can potentially produce effects ranging from vomiting and diarrhea to panting, excessive thirst and urination, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors, seizures, as well as the possible development of life-threatening pancreatitis (an inflammatory condition of the pancreas), even death in severe cases. Cats seem to be more severely affected than dogs.

The peels, fruit and seeds of citrus plants such as lemons, oranges, limes and grapefruits contain varying amounts of citric acid, limonin and volatile oils that can cause gastrointestinal irritation such as vomiting or diarrhea if ingested.


Large quantities of raisins or grapes will cause vomiting and hyperactivity, dehydration, lethargy and depression. The pet may stop urinating, drinking, and/or eating. Ultimately, without treatment, the dog will go into kidney failure.

Hydrogen Peroxide, is the safest way to induce vomiting in your pet at home.It is important to never force H2O2 or any other liquid into your pet’s mouth, because he or she may accidentally inhale it, which could lead to pneumonia. Vomiting should also not be induced in animals exhibiting tremors or other neurological signs, or with ingestions of certain substances such as caustic chemicals, oils or other items that could damage the gastrointestinal tract or become inhaled.

If ingested in large enough quantities, mistletoe has the potential to produce gastrointestinal irritation, excessive thirst and urination, a drop in blood pressure and heart rate, and in severe cases, difficulty breathing, seizures, coma and even death.

Many types of nuts are not recommended for dogs in general, their high phosphorous content is said to possibly lead to bladder stones. Walnuts and macadamia nuts are said to be more toxic.

If ingested in large quantities, any one can cause gastrointestinal irritation and could even result in damage to red blood cells. While cats are more sensitive, dogs and other species of animals are also susceptible to poisoning if enough plant material is consumed.


Poinsettias are not the deadly flowers that popular legend has made them out to be. In reality, poinsettia ingestions typically produce only mild to moderate gastrointestinal tract irritation, which may include drooling, vomiting and/or diarrhea.

Alkaloids can be found in green sprouts and green potato skins, and are poisonous to pets. Note that cooked potatoes are fine for dogs.

The statement “DESSICANT- DO NOT EAT” commonly found on the little packets of silica gel is not really as ominous as it sounds. Silica gel is also used in certain cat litters. While it is not meant for consumption, with most ingestions silica gel produces only mild stomach upset which typically resolves with minimal to no treatment.

Christmas tree water (may contain fertilizers and bacteria, which, if ingested, can upset the stomach.

In general, the meat is considered safe, but as with other human food, not recommended for pets as it may cause vomiting and/or diarrhea. The bones and skin are definitely off limits. Turkey skin is currently thought to cause acute pancreatis in dogs.

Raw or uncooked yeast-based dough can expand in the stomach as it rises, causing an obstruction or intestinal rupture, yeast can form alcohol when it rises, which could potentially result in alcohol poisoning.

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center.
Tel: (888) 426-4435.

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