Protect Your Family Pet from Top Holiday Hazards

Chicago, IL – As the festive cheer of Thanksgiving, Hanukah, and Christmas is just around the corner, families and individuals must give extra special attention to issues that can affect the safety and health of their pets.

Preventative steps taken now will allow you and your pets to have a wonderful holiday season without an emergency visit to your veterinarian. The following areas represent hazards which pet owners can protect their pets from in advance.

Ingestion of Bones from turkey, ham, lamb, etc. can be dangerous. Certain bones, especially those that are small enough, can pass uneventfully through the intestinal tract. However, if a bone is too large or too sharp, significant damage can occur to the intestinal tract and possibly require surgery. If you know your pet ingested any bone, promptly contact your veterinarian.

Chocolate and Baked Goods (DOGS) Some chocolate is tolerable in moderation; however, the darker chocolate and baking chocolates are more toxic. The degree of toxicity is a function of the amount ingested and size of your dog.  Artificial sweetener containing xylitol, which is often found in candies and baked goods, can be very toxic to dogs.

Guests Feeding Your Pet foods can cause significant illness, especially in larger quantities.  Your pet may also gain exposure to alcoholic beverages and ingest more than their share.  If you have any concerns about what your pet ingested, check with your veterinarian. When guests are in your home, you should confine or monitor your pets closely, especially curious dogs.

Holiday Plants are beautiful in your home, but no so good for your pets. Poinsettias are fairly safe, though can cause intestinal irritation. Mistletoe can be toxic and become life-threatening. Lilies can be extremely toxic and deadly to cats; do not allow exposure. Holly can be toxic, but not typically life-threatening. Please call your veterinarian for advice, if you pet ingests any portion of these plants.

Christmas Trees and Decorations can pose many hazards for dogs and cats, including: 1. Tinsel, garland, and packing Styrofoam can be dangerous if ingested; 2. Ornaments if ingested can cause damage to the stomach and intestines because of the broken glass fiberglass fragments; 3. A tree falling over can injure your pet; secure your tree; 4. Pine needles ingestion can lead to intestinal irritation, or even an intestinal obstruction; and 5. Lights can be dangerous due to electrocution if your pet chews through cords.

Ribbons are dangerous if ingested by both dogs and cats. They can cause an intestinal obstruction, and even severe damage to the intestines, which can become life threatening.

Ice Melts and Anti-freeze: Ice melts can cause damage to the footpads of your pet. Anti-freeze can be toxic at low levels and can become life threatening very quickly. Ice melts and anti-freeze are available in pet friendly formulas.

Liquid Potpourri and Burning Candles pose a fire risk, as well as risk of injury from the hot liquid. If ingested liquid potpourri can cause severe ulceration of the mouth and esophagus; early treatment is crucial.

Toys with Small Objects can be ingested by both dogs and cats, causing intestinal obstruction, which can require surgery. Early intervention can often prevent surgery if you know your pet ate something.

As noted by Chicago Veterinary Medical Association President Dr. Alexis Newman, “The holidays can be as much fun for pets as for their families. However, it is important to monitor your pets since any of the mentioned concerns can become life-threatening. If you have any questions regarding what is safe for your pet, it is important to consult with your veterinarian. There are several 24-hour emergency veterinary hospitals throughout the Chicago metropolitan area, when your veterinarian’s office is closed. Many of these problems cannot wait.  Take precautions to ensure your family and your pet(s) have a happy and healthy, holiday season!”

For more information about the Chicago Veterinary Medical Association, please visit


The CVMA is an association of over 1000 veterinarians and 4000 support staff who lovingly assist more than one million Chicago area pets and their families.

The membership of the CVMA is dedicated to the health and well-being of animals through its nurturing of the human animal bond. The CVMA will strive to fulfill the diversified needs of its members by providing nationally recognized CE programs, cultivating membership involvement, and offering innovative member services and exemplary public awareness.

Since 1896, the CVMA has continued a proud tradition of providing its members with vital services and programs which have expanded dramatically over a century to meet the ever-changing needs of the veterinary profession and its diverse patients and clients.