Time for our pets: Safety tips for the holiday and beyond

christmas pets

Editor’s note: We welcome Amy Maltman to our team of column writers. Amy will write about pets and pet health on myAlgoma.ca monthly.

The holidays are a joyful time but can be rife with dangers for your pets. From toxic foods and plants to decoration hazards, here are some things to avoid.


Alcohol – Its toxic effects can include vomiting, diarrhea, coordination problems, difficulty breathing, and even coma and death.

Avocado – The leaves, fruit, seed, and bark are all toxic, causing vomiting and diarrhea

Caffeine – see effects of chocolate

Chocolate – Dogs love it, but it can cause vomiting and diarrhea, increased thirst and urination, abnormal heart rhythm, seizures, and death. The darker the chocolate, the higher the concentration of the toxic component (theobromine) and therefore the more dangerous. Baker’s chocolate has the highest concentration and risk, while white chocolate contains the lowest.

Fatty foods – Your pet may beg for such things as turkey skin, gravy, and stuffing but eating them can cause pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) which can become deadly. The symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, a painful abdomen, sluggishness, increased heart rate, and trouble breathing.

Fruit seeds and pits – When consumed in a large enough quantity (relative to the size of the dog), they can be toxic due to arsenic content. Also, pits from such fruits as peaches can cause intestinal blockage.

Garlic, chives, onions – If eaten in large quantities, these can damage red blood cells.

Grapes and Raisins – What might seem like a healthy treat can actually be deadly, causing your dog to develop kidney failure.

Macadamia nuts – Watch for these in baking! They can cause weakness, vomiting, tremors, and hyperthermia (high body temperature) usually within 12 hours.

Poultry bones – These small bones fracture easily and can puncture your pet’s stomach or intestines. They can also cause intestinal blockage, requiring surgery.

Xylitol – This is an artificial sweetener that can be found in many foods such as sugar-free gum, candy, and baked goods. It stimulates the release of insulin in your pet leading to dangerously low blood sugar as well as liver failure. Watch for vomiting, tiredness, lack of coordination, and seizures.

Yeast dough (raw) – As the dough rises, it releases gas inside the intestines. This can cause bloating, pain, and even intestinal rupture.


Holly – It causes nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Lilies – Many varieties can cause kidney failure.

Mistletoe – Kiss your pet under it, but don’t let it eat it! It can cause gastrointestinal upset and cardiovascular problems.

Poinsettia – This plant can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, and redness of the skin and eyes.


Candles – Watch where you place your candles. A pet can easily knock one over (or knock something into it) and start a fire.

Christmas tree – Place your tree in a corner and secure it if possible to make it more difficult to knock over. Don’t place lights where your pet can reach them and chew the electrical cord. This can start a fire and/or give your pet a shock. If you use a real tree, make sure your pet doesn’t drink the tree water. It can contain bacteria that may lead to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Tinsel – Avoid using this at all costs. Pets often find it irresistible and consumption can result in intestinal blockage.


If you are interested in learning about First Aid (including CPR) for your dogs, Dr. Franca Deluco of Black Road Veterinary Services is giving a presentation at the Sault Ste. Marie Kennel Club Tuesday, December 6 at 7:15. It is open to the public so feel free to join us! (Please leave your pets at home.) Our address is 76 Fourth Line West, near ARCH and the cemetery. We would love to see you!


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