Pet Holiday Hazards

making holidays safe for pets

The holidays are a time of joy and celebration, but they also bring potential pet hazards for our furry companions. Common holiday elements like seasonal plants, decorations and indulgent treats can pose a threat to cats and dogs. Read on to learn which seasonal plants are toxic to pets as well as practical tips to make your environment more pet-friendly during the holiday season. 

Holiday Plants Toxic to Pets 


Holly, with its glossy green leaves and vibrant red berries, is a common sight during the holiday season. While it adds a festive touch to the home, it’s important to be aware that this holiday plant can be toxic to pets. The compounds methylxanthine and saponins are found in holly berries and can cause a range of negative reactions in dogs and cats when ingested. Symptoms of holly poisoning in pets may include vomiting, diarrhea, drooling and abdominal pain. In severe cases, ingestion can lead to more serious issues like heart arrhythmias and even death. Pet owners should exercise caution and keep holly plants out of reach from their furry friends. If you suspect that your cat or dog has consumed holly berries, immediately call your vet. 


This symbol of holiday cheer carries a hidden danger for our pets. The compounds viscotoxin and phoratoxin are found in the mistletoe’s leaves, berries and stem. If an animal chews or eats any part of the plant they may experience difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhea and a slowed heart rate. Advanced symptoms include collapse and death. Choosing to forgo the festive plant for an artificial option may be a good idea to ensure a safe environment for pets. Any suspicion of mistletoe ingestion needs veterinary attention as soon as possible.

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Poinsettias are a flowering plant well known for its red and green foliage. These festive plants can pose a mild toxicity risk to animals, attributed to the milky sap present in their stems. This sap contains the chemicals diterpenoid euphorbol esters and saponin-like detergents.  Consumption can result in vomiting, drooling or diarrhea. Contact with the milky sap can also lead to eye and skin irritations. It’s best to keep poinsettias out of reach of curious animals.

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Holiday Decorations Pet Hazards  

Christmas Trees 

Many curious cats and playful pups see a Christmas tree as a playground. Safeguarding the pets from potential mishap requires a thought-out approach. 

Start by securing the Christmas tree to prevent any unexpected topples, ensuring a stable and hazard-free environment. Make sure the base is heavy to help prevent tipping over and is placed on a sturdy, flat surface. You can also anchor your tree to nearby objects to help ensure your tree stays upright.

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A common holiday Google search is “How to keep pets away from Christmas trees”. One idea includes placing barriers around the tree, like fences, gates or a clear drum shield. Some pet owners also have success utilizing unpleasant surfaces for pets to walk on by utilizing scat mats or wrapping the base of a tree in tin foil. Using scents like citrus or orange also may help to deter your pet from a tree, as well as specially designed cat repellents in both solid and liquid spray forms.

Cats are especially challenging to keep out of trees, and preventing them from entering from the bottom is only one part of the equation. Remember to keep your tree away from other surfaces like nearby tables, chairs and bookshelves to decrease the chances of your pet launching in the branches or batting at ornaments. Read here for more ideas on deterring cats from Christmas trees.  

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If you have a live Christmas tree in your home, ensure the water under the tree is off-limits to your pets by either covering the reservoir or creating a barrier to prevent entry. Drinking the water is dangerous for pets, as it can contain preservatives, pesticides and other agents which are often used to keep trees fresh. 

Lastly, it’s a good idea to regularly assess the area around your Christmas tree and check for fallen pine needles. Both real and plastic pine needles should be cleared of the area to prevent pets from ingesting them.

Lights, Ornaments and Tinsel 

Ornamental items such as tinsel, glass bulbs and dangling decorations can be tempting items for cats and dogs. Not only are these items choking hazards for pets, but broken pieces can also cut an animal’s paws, skin or mouth. Try keeping dangerous ornaments higher on your tree and out of reach for your pet. Consider utilizing shatterproof plastic ornaments instead of glass if you suspect your pet may get too near.

Electrical wiring used in decorative lights creates a risk for electric shock if chewed on by pets. Consider covering cords with protective shields like plastic or rubber cord protectors. Covering cables on the floor with rugs or gaff tape is another idea to explore.


Knocked-over candles can easily start a fire, and wax spills may damage flooring and carpets. Prevent these kinds of accidents by placing candles in secure holders or choosing flameless candles instead. Pet owners should never leave lit candles unattended and should consider placing them in an area inaccessible to rambunctious pets. For a joyful and safe holiday, it’s essential to strike a balance between ambiance and safety when incorporating candles into the seasonal decor. 

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Foods and Treats   

Indulging in food and treats is a hallmark of the holiday celebrations, but certain foods can be a serious pet hazards. Rich and fatty foods can lead to digestive issues and even pancreatitis. Common holiday staples like chocolate, nuts and foods seasoned with garlic and onions are known to be toxic to cats and dogs. Moreover, bones from holiday roasts may splinter, causing choking or intestinal blockages. Resist the desire to share festive foods with your furry friends and instead provide pet-safe goodies for them to enjoy. To learn more about different foods that are harmful to pets read here

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Happy Holidays for Both Pets and Humans 

While the holidays are a time for celebration, it is essential to prioritize the safety of pets in the household. From toxic plants like holly and mistletoe to the allure of Christmas decorations and the pitfalls of indulgent treats, this time of year it is crucial to keep a watchful eye. By being aware of potential pet hazards and taking proactive measures, you can ensure your pets enjoy a happy and healthy holiday season alongside the rest of the family. 

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