5 Holiday Hazards to Avoid this Season

By Dr. Rachel Duncan, Veterinarian

Keep your entire family safe this holiday season by avoiding these common pet holiday hazards:


The holiday season comes with a variety of food items that could cause problems for your furry friends.


Chocolate is in abundance this time of year and could be a problem for your pets when ingested. Chemicals in cocoa are similar to caffeine and can cause high heart rate, agitation, seizures or even death at high enough concentrations. Be sure to keep any chocolate out of reach from your pets. 

If your pet does ingest chocolate, please contact your veterinarian or a poison control center. Bring all packaging with you to the veterinarian so the toxicosis risk can be better determined.

Raisins and Grapes

Numerous holiday food items can contain raisins, including fruit cake and cookies. Raisins and grapes contain an unknown compound that can cause kidney damage in dogs. Vomiting may occur early with large ingestions but signs may be delayed until kidney damage occurs over days. Lethargy, vomiting and loss of appetite may be observed several days following ingestion.



Bouquets and floral arrangements are very popular during the holiday season. Lilies are frequently included in these beautiful displays. Be aware lilies are extremely toxic to cats. Any part of a true lily can cause kidney failure in cats. Keep all lilies away from any homes with cats!


Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are not very toxic. Dogs and cats may have some mild GI upset after eating the leaves but no other significant disease. You can safely enjoy the season with poinsettia plants in your home.

Other seasonal plants

There are numerous other plants popular during the holidays, including cyclamen and mistletoe, that can also pose some risk.

If your pet has ingested part of a plant or has any signs suspicious of an ingestion (drooling, vomiting, lethargy), please document what plants are present in the home and bring your pet to your veterinarian for further care.


Curious pets love to play with tinsel and ornament strings or decorations. If ingested, linear objects can become stuck in the intestines and cause an obstruction. Rarely some very excited animals (mostly dogs!) will also ingest part or all of an ornament. Animals with an obstruction will often vomit, stop eating, become lethargic and appear uncomfortable.


Similar to tinsel, any material that is linear or that may become lodged in the intestinal tract poses a risk of obstruction. Be sure to quickly remove any package decorations or paper quickly after opening gifts.


If batteries are chewed or ingested, battery acid can leak and cause trauma to the mouth or gastrointestinal tract. Uncommonly a large battery swallowed whole can cause concern for gastrointestinal obstruction. Small button batteries can also be swallowed whole and pose even more of a risk. These small disc batteries can quickly leak acid and burn the esophagus. Esophageal ulceration or perforation is extremely dangerous and may be life-threatening. If you see your pet ingest any batteries, esp button batteries, please call your veterinarian or animal poison control center immediately for instructions. Do not induce vomiting at home. Offering a bland diet immediately may help move the battery out of the more delicate esophagus and reduce trauma until further management can be performed.

If you observe your pet ingest any of these hazards, or have any other concerns, please immediately contact your veterinarian. Rocky Gorge Animal Hospital is available 24 hours for any pet-related emergencies. ASPCA Poison Control Center is also an invaluable resource: 1-888-426-4435.

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