During the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it is easy to let your guard down when it comes to preventing toxic exposures to your pet. Below is a list of holiday-related decorations, plants and food items that the veterinarians at Pet Poison Helpline recommend keeping away from pets, especially those hounds who seem to sniff out and sample everything, not knowing the difference between what is safe and what is dangerous for them.
Holiday ornaments and decorations: Holiday decorations such as old-fashioned bubble lights may contain poisonous chemicals. If a pet chews on them, the liquid inside could be dangerous to their health. Glass ornaments that shine and shimmer are often an enticing toy for your pet; however, if they were to bite in to, or break one during play, the small glass pieces can lead to lacerations to the skin and mouth, as well as damage to the esophagus and gastrointestinal tract. Homemade dough ornaments pose a risk for causing elevated sodium levels that may lead to severe neurologic abnormalities. If any of these types of tree decorations are being used for your tree, it is recommended to keep them towards the upper portion of the tree, where they are less likely to be accessed by your pet. Many animals develop electrical burns in their mouth from chewing on strands of lights, particularly cats and puppies. It is ideal to minimize dangling light strands to make them less appealing to pets.
Tinsel: While tinsel itself is not “poisonous,” it can result in a linear foreign body when eaten. A linear foreign body occurs when your pet swallows something “stringy” (like ribbon, yarn, tinsel, etc.), which wraps around the base of the tongue or anchors itself in the stomach, rendering it unable to pass through the intestines. As the intestines contract and move, this string or linear foreign body can slowly saw through the tissue, resulting in severe, potentially life threatening damage to your pet’s intestinal tract.
Liquid potpourri/oils/candles: Filling your house with the smell of nutmeg or pine for the holidays may seem inviting—but if you’re partial to heating your scented oils in a simmer pot, know that they can cause serious harm to your pet; even a few licks can result in severe chemical burns in the mouth, fever, difficulty breathing, and tremors. Dry potpourri may also cause chemical burns in the mouth, and also potential foreign bodies and gastrointestinal upset depending on the size of animal and amount ingested. While candles are often scented with oils, the largest concern with ingestion is a foreign body and potential obstruction. In addition to an upset stomach, surgical removal of the candle may be necessary in severe cases.
Plants: Though they have a bad rap, poinsettia plants are only mildly toxic. Far more worrisome are holiday bouquets containing lilies (Liliumspp), holly, or mistletoe. Even bouquets brought into the house by holiday guests should be thoroughly inspected, as lilies are one of the most commonly used. Other yuletide plants such as holly berries and mistletoe can also be toxic to pets as well.
Alcohol: Most people know not to give alcoholic drinks to their pets; however, alcohol poisoning in pets is more common than you think. This is because alcohol can be found in surprising places! Rum-soaked fruitcake, or unbaked dough that contains yeast, result in alcohol poisoning and other problems. Ingestion of alcohol can cause dangerous drops in blood sugar, blood pressure and body temperature. Intoxicated animals can experience seizures and respiratory failure.
Holiday foods: With the holiday season comes a delightful variety of baked goods, chocolate confections and other rich, fattening foods. However, it is not wise, and in some cases, quite dangerous, to share these treats with your pets. Foods that present problems are:
Foods containing grapes, raisins and currants (such as fruit cakes, breads and cookies) can result in kidney failure in dogs.
Chocolate and cocoa contain theobromine, a chemical highly toxic to dogs. Ingestion in small amounts can cause vomiting and diarrhea but large amounts can cause seizures and heart arrhythmias.
Many sugarless gums and candies contain xylitol, a sweetener which is toxic to dogs. It causes a life-threatening drop in blood sugar and liver failure.
Leftover fatty, meat scraps can produce severe inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) leading to abdominal pain, vomiting and bloody diarrhea.
Ice Melt: Ice melts are commonly used around entryways and sidewalks and the containers that are filled with these products are often left within a pet’s reach. There are numerous formulations available, many of which contain salt (sodium chloride), and small exposures typically lead to stomach upset, and dermal and paw pad irritation. Larger ingestions may quickly cause salt poisoning which can result in a rapid onset of vomiting, excessive thirst and seizures.
Antifreeze: Dogs find antifreeze quite tasty and if they find antifreeze they'll drink it. Antifreeze is extremely toxic causing kidney failure that is often fatal in just a few days. Very small amounts of antifreeze can be fatal.
When it comes to the holidays, the best thing a pet owner can do is to become educated on common indoor and outdoor household toxins and pet-proof your environment accordingly. If you think your pet has been poisoned, contact your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline at 800-213-6680, with any questions or concerns.
Information summarized from Pet Poison Helpline
By Brit Kruesel, owner
About Good Hound Company
Good Hound Company was founded in 2017 by Brit Kruesel while she was living in her quaint, one-bedroom apartment above a pub in Shorewood, Wisconsin. Started with pets, their owners and sustainability in mind, many of Good Hound Company’s goods are made from recycled or vintage materials, including our packaging which is made from 100% recycled material. Good Hound Company contributes directly to supporting local dog rescue + protection organizations through advocacy efforts and by providing them with vital funding for the ongoing care of animals in need. We’re driven by community and often team up with small businesses we love and other-like minded individuals. It is our goal to invest back into the community that has given us so much support.