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Posted on 06-24-2015

** Remember alcoholic beverages are toxic to animals and should NEVER be given to them during holidays or any other time. Same caution goes for “recreational pharmaceuticals” such as marijuana, cocaine… you get the picture.  If your dog or cat has an accidental ingestion, it is vitally important that you tell your veterinarian or the poison control toxicologist so they can advise you about the appropriate treatment, antidote, etc. **


Flowers and candy are the biggies here.  Many types of flowers and plants found in bouquets or arrangements are harmful to dogs or cats if they are ingested (see list of hazardous plants under Household Dangers Part II- previous entry).  Chocolate can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, tremors or seizures. In severe cases, chocolate poisoning can be fatal.  Certain chocolates contain larger amounts of theobromine (the toxic substance for the animals) so it’s best to avoid all chocolate. If your dog or cat does ingest chocolate, contact help as listed below so you can determine what treatment is appropriate.


More candy here, more chocolate & some flowers are all possibilities.

Fake grass – this colorful “grass” may look appetizing to your dog or cat but it can cause choking or intestinal obstruction if ingested.

Small toys and other plastic items such as plastic Easter eggs – if swallowed, these items may cause intestinal obstruction, choking or even damage to the intestinal tract.


These summer holidays often include grilling, barbeque, fireworks, and alcohol. Remember your dogs and cats will do better having their regular diet with a special dog cookie treat or treat filled toy or bone that they are used to having than getting something from your plate that may be far too spicy or fatty for their digestion. Nothing spoils a holiday like vomiting, diarrhea and a trip to the emergency clinic!

Fireworks are another important concern in summer. Fireworks can scare animals making them run off or cause serious injuries if detonated near them. Animals don’t always run from but may run toward them, so if you are going where fireworks will be, consider leaving your beloved companion at home.  If you are using fireworks at home, keep your dogs and cats indoors.  Many formulations are also toxic if ingested, so clean up any area where fireworks have been used carefully before pets are in that environment again.


Repeatedly opening doors to greet trick-or-treaters can increase the chances that your animals might bolt through the door and get out.  If possible, keep your dogs and cats in a secure area or closed room when opening the doors. Particularly cats or small dogs may dart out the door unnoticed with all the excitement.

Halloween decorations can be a health risk for your companion animals.  Be very careful with any string, tinsel or garland type decorations to prevent accidental ingestion and choking. Candles are another concern. Animals are naturally curious and may be attracted to the bright light of the flame in dark areas. The animal might knock the candle over, starting a fire, or burn themselves with the flame.

Candy and xylitol – much of the candy passed out at Halloween contains chocolate.  Of course you know about chocolate and why that’s a problem. However, candy or gum sweetened with xylitol is toxic to your animal and can lead to rapid kidney failure and death.  (www.veterinarypartner.com has an excellent page you can read about xylitol toxicity. Just type xylitol in the search box.)


Bones – turkey, chicken, and other small animal bones are very different from the large bones you purchase for your companion at the pet store. These small bones splinter easily and can cause serious internal damage if swallowed.  Avoid all the possible issues and just DON’T GIVE THEM TO YOUR DOG OR CAT.

Your animals will likely be curious when they smell all those wonderful cooking smells. Keep an eye on hot containers so that your dog or cat does not tip them over and get burned.


  • Holiday plants – Christmas rose, holly, lilies and mistletoe are all toxic to dogs and cats.
  • Ribbons – they may look adorable, but placing a ribbon around your dog or cat’s neck may cause them to choke.
  • Bubbling lights – older forms of this wonderful decoration may contain methylene chloride which is a highly toxic chemical.
  • Fire salts – these contain chemicals that can be harmful to animals.
  • Angel hair (spun glass) – can be irritating to eyes and skin and can cause intestinal obstruction if eaten in larger quantities.
  • Christmas tree water – stagnant tree water or water containing preservatives could result in stomach upset if ingested.
  • Decoration hooks – can cause blockage and/or trauma to gastrointestinal tract if swallowed.
  • Styrofoam – can cause choking if swallowed.
  • Ornaments – these can look like toys to dogs and cats but can cause serious injury–especially if your animals break or swallow them.
  • Tinsel – can cause choking or internal trauma if swallowed & require extensive surgery to remove
  • Candy and chocolate – I’m sensing a theme here….  By now you know ALL about chocolate and xylitol sweetened candy and gum!


Balloons and confetti – these traditional party decorations can cause animals to choke or obstruct their intestines if ingested. Monitor your animals carefully when they are around these items or better yet, move them to an area that is not decorated.

Fireworks – same as the summer holiday issues.

Noisemakers – New Year’s is typically a noisy holiday. Loud noises can frighten animals and cause them to try to escape the noise. Keep the animals in a separate room away from noisemakers, music and other loud noises that may startle them.

A special note about noise and celebrations in general. We know that animals hearing is more acute than our hearing. Consider this at all holiday celebrations. Loud noise can startle at best and seriously frighten some animals. Know your dog and cat and pay attention to signals they may give about being overwhelmed with noise, motion, people, etc.  Your bond with your animal companion is special and part of your responsibility in this bond is to provide a secure environment for them to live. Knowing they can trust you to be aware of their needs at all times allows them to relax and enjoy themselves. If your animals aren’t “party” animals, keep them away from the hubbub and then have your own quieter celebration with them at another time.

Happy Holidays to all!

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