Veterinarians Offer Timely Holiday Tips

Common household hazards include mistletoe, tinsel.

Posted: Dec. 24, 2008, 3 a.m. EST

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Mistletoe and holly berries and poinsettia plants make for popular holiday decorations in homes. However, it’s important to keep these and other ornaments out of reach of cats and dogs in order to avoid making an emergency visit to the pet clinic because of a sick animal, according to Dr. Richard Orzeck, a veterinarian in upstate New York.

Even though it’s impossible to list all of the potential dangers that can cause harm to pets, Orzeck said that by highlighting a few of the more common problems veterinarians see or hear about during the holiday season, perhaps pets can be spared unnecessary misery.

Orzeck and veterinarians at the Mathew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania offer the following tips to keep pets healthy, and out of the emergency room, during the holidays.


  • Tinsel: Dogs and cats like to eat it, and tinsel (particularly plastic tinsel), can cut the intestines and cause severe injuries. If you suspect your pet has ingested tinsel, contact your veterinarian at once.
  • Electrical cords: Puppies and kittens may try to chew the wires. Take some extra time to tape down or cover cords to help prevent shocks, burns or more serious injuries. 
  • Glass ornaments: They break easily, and pets can ingest the splinters, cutting their mouth or intestines.
    Ornament hooks: When swallowed, they can damage the mouth or esophagus.
  • Dough ornaments: Because of high salt content, they are not good for pets. Ingestion can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and in severe cases, seizures. 
  • Mistletoe, holly berries, poinsettia plants: These can be poisonous to pets, causing severe upset stomachs. Pine needles can irritate or sometimes puncture a pet’s intestine. 


  • Maintain your dog and cat’s regular diet. Table scraps from a holiday feast, especially ones covered in gravy or containing poultry skin, can cause severe gastrointestinal upset. Do not give the bones from poultry to your pets, as they can splinter, form sharp points and get stuck in the throat, gums or the roof of the mouth, causing severe problems. Dispose of bones carefully so that pets cannot get them. 
  • Do not give your pets onions, macadamia nuts or alcohol;  they are toxic to dogs and cats. And never feed your pets chocolate, as it contains the heart stimulant theobromine, which can cause a severe heart arrhythmias or seizures if ingested in large doses. 

Things many pet owners don’t think about

A few more considerations to pay attention to include Christmas candles and scented oils, tree water, grapes and raisins, non-nutritious treats, seasonal medications, antifreeze from snow globes, batteries and de-icing products.



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Reader Comments

debby    oxford, MN

12/19/2011 6:19:53 AM

after having cats all my life i have the saftey down on what to keep away from them. good for who didn't know it.

Pat    Omaha, NE

12/29/2008 6:22:46 AM

great article

Andrew    Palo Alto, CA

12/27/2008 12:02:56 PM

thanks for the info. i'll be more careful from now on.

Eileen    Roanoke, VA

12/27/2008 5:30:44 AM

I have not given my cats anything except cat food. I find I am able to enjoy my holiday meal without their faces in my plate.

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