Keeping your pets safe during the holidays
So it’s the holiday season, and what do I think of?

Hmm…. a few dogs with chocolate toxicosis, some tinsel-obstructed cats, and a few turkey bloats! It’s a fun season for us at the veterinary hospital for sure, but not so fun for the dogs and cats who come in.

Believe it or not, I am NOT immune to these oopsies with my own family.

My now deceased Jack Russell Terrier, Gaston, managed to get himself into quite a lot of trouble in his lifetime. We didn’t know what had happened to my sister’s home-made candied almonds, until we found them in the snow…(incidentally, if not chewed, almonds go straight through – undigested). And then there was the chocolate, 2 years in a row… the first year it was just brownies the kids left on the table, not so bad. Year #2, though, was a full-on disaster.  Gaston ate an entire bar of 75% cacao. Delish!  He took it straight out of my parents’ suitcase which was sitting on the floor in the guest room.  Then the chocolate met our living room chairs and floor late into the night. We rushed him to my clinic and had to give him activated charcoal. As you can imagine, there is a reason why we have NO rugs or carpets in our home…

Of course being a veterinarian, I enjoy getting the occasional emergency case; it gets my heart racing and brain moving. But sometimes the outcome is not so wonderful and I know how terrible the families feel. We all make mistakes and certainly cannot take every precaution and be 100% sure the house is dog, cat and KID-proofed. However, here are a few things you can do to keep your little furry family members healthy and out of trouble.

Chocolate and treats:

As you so joyfully heard me describe above, chocolate, especially the real stuff, is very dangerous for your pet. It can even be lethal if taken in a large enough does – half a bar of expensive Lindt’s chocolate! Candies and other products containing Xylitol are also toxic and should be kept at a safe distance. Dogs and cats will often eat candies, etc. wrapped in papers which in the end can cause intestinal obstructions. So keep everything at a paw’s-distance.


This is where mistakes happen, I know firsthand. When people visit or come to stay for awhile, make sure they put any food or medications (human as well as animal) far up and out of harm’s way. If your dog or cat feels stressed when people are visiting, maybe they are better off staying in a different room (with a favourite toy to keep them busy) instead of having to be near something that stresses them. If your dog or cat suffers from very serious stress when you have guests, there may be some suggestions your veterinarian can give you to help relieve this.

The Tree:

Ensure your tree is securely anchored so it doesn’t tip and fall on top of you, your kids or your pet! This will also prevent the tree water (which may contain fertilizers) from spilling. Stagnant tree water is also a breeding ground for bacteria and if your pet drinks it he could end up getting quite sick.

Tinsel and ornaments:

Cats absolutely love tinsel – a sparkly, light-catching “toy” that is easy to bat around and carry in their mouths. But sometimes they swallow it and it can lead to a terrible intestinal obstruction needing surgery. Keep tree ornaments up high so it is less likely your cat or dog (or toddler!) can grab them off the tree. I have seen my cats have A LOT of fun with the glass and plastic shiny balls, but the loops of thread and other types of tree attachments are a perfect size for an intestinal obstruction – BEWARE.

Holly and Mistletoe can cause stomach upset and even cardiovascular problems if ingested by your pet and many varieties of lilies can cause kidney failure in cats. My suggestion: go plastic/silk for a pet-friendly bouquet!

Keep the wine and food for your consumption:

Although you may feel those sweet eyes begging for a piece of the turkey are simply irresistible, consider what could happen after. A ruined carpet or sofa and some medical bills – is it really worth it?  Fatty and spicy foods are also not well tolerated by cats and dogs, especially if they don’t regularly get human food. Keep grapes, raisins, onions and garlic away from your dog and cat as they are also toxic.

Wired Up:

Keep all those wires and batteries in your kids’ new toys well out of paws-reach. A wire can deliver a potentially lethal electrical shock and a punctured battery can cause burns to the mouth and esophagus

Windshield wiper fluid and all anti-freeze products:

  Keep these safely up high and away from your dog or cat. The ethylene glycol in these products tastes sweet and they actually like it. It is unfortunately HIGHLY toxic to our pets.


My final tips for the season:
  • Find out what hours your veterinarian is open during the holidays and how to contact your closest emergency veterinary clinic if your vet is closed.
  • Keep hydrogen peroxide in your medicine chest (good for making your pet vomit – but best done under the guidance of an animal health professional).
  • Have some great cleaning products available on hand that are safe for rugs, etc.
  • Have stuffed Kongs and other time-occupying toys at hand so that if you need to put your cat or dog in a room and away from guests, you are prepared.

I am exhausted just thinking about the pet-proofing I will be doing over the next few weeks with a super mobile 1-year old, a 2 year old dog that still acts like a puppy and two silly cats. At least the older kids and husband will be safe…..or will they? (note to self – make sure kids ask for help opening presents instead of doing it themselves with a knife… aka – heading to the Children’s for stitches!)

Happy Holidays to all, four-legged included.




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