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Holiday Pet Safety: 7 Things to Keep Away from Pets

The holidays are an exciting yet stressful time for everyone. It’s not uncommon to get so busy, tired, or just caught up in midst of the festivities to the point that your pet just isn’t top of mind.

So before enjoying the holidays too much, understand that you’ll need to take extra care to practice good holiday pet safety. The following represent holiday treats and other common items during holiday festivities that can be harmful to pets.

Holiday Items to Keep Away From Pets

#1: Sweets

It’s normal to want to include furry friends in your celebrations. However, a lot of favorite holiday staples are bad for pets. While sweets are generally bad for pets, the following foods cause the most harm:


While sugar-free candy may be healthier for pet owners, this usually isn’t the case for their furry friends. Xylitol, a natural sugar-free sweetener usually found in sugar-free gum and mints, is potentially dangerous to dogs. Ingesting even small amounts can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) within 10-15 minutes. Other symptoms include weakness, lethargy, vomiting, seizures, black tarry stool, and in worse cases, liver failure, coma, or death.


It’s common knowledge that chocolate is bad for both cats and dogs. What most people don’t know is that one of the ingredients that cause harm to pets is a stimulant called theobromine (methylxanthines and caffeine can also cause issues). Theobromine causes vomiting and diarrhea when ingested in small doses, and may cause seizures and heart arrhythmia. In large amounts, it can also lead to a coma or death.

Especially poisonous to pets are milk chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, and baking chocolate.

Fizzy Drinks

Aside from containing sugar, fizzy drinks like soda are bad for your pet, because they also contain caffeine, which has a similar effect to the theobromine present in chocolate.

#2: Ham and Bacon

Fatty food such as ham and bacon may seem like a good holiday treat for your pets, but before you sneak them a scrap or two, know that these fatty foods can actually cause pancreatitis or inflammation of the pancreas. Pancreatitis is a serious condition, where the enzymes that help digest food are excreted prematurely, causing the pancreas to digest itself.

#3: Nuts

Nuts are a staple holiday snack but a no-no for pets.

Not only are they are high in fat; they may also contain other toxins that are harmful. Macadamia nuts are especially dangerous to pets and can cause a high temperature, tremors, and neurological issues. These effects can occur very quickly after ingestion, so take extra care to keep nuts away from pets.

#4: Alcohol

Alcohol is a byproduct of fermentation, where yeast reacts with the sugar in food to produce carbon dioxide and ethanol, both of which are harmful to animals. As a holiday staple, you’ll want to be aware of its pet safety issues.

The ethanol in alcoholic drinks can be toxic to humans but more so to animals, as they don’t process alcohol the same way humans do. Alcohol is absorbed more quickly in a pet’s bloodstream and can cause dangerous drops in blood sugar, body temperature, and blood pressure.

On the other hand, products that have yeast (such as raw bread dough) produce carbon dioxide in the animal’s warm and moist stomach, which causes stomach bloat and can be life-threatening.

#5: Grapes, Raisins, and Currants

Although fruits such as grapes, raisins, and currants are known to be fatal to pets, the chemical component and the amount required to affect them is unknown. Toxicity symptoms include abdominal pain, frequent thirst and urination, and tremors within 6-12 hours. Kidney failure can develop in dogs within 24-72 hours.

It’s also been said that cats cannot tolerate grapes.

#6: Onions/Garlic/Leeks/Chives

Technically, alliums such as onion and garlic are not considered holiday treats. However, since they give flavor to most seasonal dishes, it’s a holiday pet safety best practice to ensure that animals don’t ingest them.

Whether raw or cooked, these ingredients can cause oxidative damage to both cats’ and dogs’ red blood cells. Cats and the Spitz dog breed are especially vulnerable. Symptoms can manifest within five days and include mouth sores, pale gums, difficulty breathing, and abdominal pain.

#7: Plants and Ornaments

Dogs and cats can be very playful and curious. As a precaution, be sure to keep these holiday plants and ornaments out of reach as part of your holiday pet safety checklist.


Poinsettias are a popular Christmas plant. However, as pretty as they look, they can be mildly harmful to both cats and dogs, causing symptoms of drooling, licking lips, vomiting, and diarrhea.

The milky white sap found in poinsettias contains chemicals considered harmful to pets. If the sap is exposed to the animal’s skin, it can cause dermal irritation, characterized by redness, swelling, and itchiness. Eye exposure can cause mild irritation.

There is no antidote for poinsettia poisoning, but because of the low toxicity, medical treatment is rarely necessary unless symptoms are severe.

Yuletide Plants

Certain types of yuletide plants, such as holly and mistletoe, are dangerous to both cats and dogs. Ensure that both are kept out of reach from pets.

The American and European varieties of mistletoe are both poisonous, though the European variety is more dangerous. The berries from mistletoe contain polysaccharides, alkaloids, and lectins, which can cause abnormal heart rate, low blood pressure, and seizures when ingested in large quantities.

Meanwhile, holly contains toxic saponins which, when ingested by pets, includes vomiting and diarrhea as symptoms.


If you have a cat, it’s probably best to forego the tinsel.

The metallic, decorative item that mimics ice is quite attractive to cats. Although tinsel doesn’t cause poisoning, it can damage a cat’s intestinal tract once ingested. Once this happens, their intestines may rupture, and treatment may involve expensive abdominal surgery.

Final Thoughts: Holiday Pet Safety: 7 Things to Keep Away from Pets

To reduce overwhelm, prioritize your holiday pet safety and keep these items and ingredients well out of reach.

What other questions do you have about holiday pet safety? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

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