The holiday season is a magical time of year, but a pet emergency can quickly dampen your Christmas spirit. Toxic treats, dangerous foods, and decoration disasters can land your pet in the hospital faster than a shake of a reindeer tail. Our South Shores Pet Clinic team has seen many pets get into holiday mischief, and having to learn difficult lessons about staying safe during the chaotic season. Take it from three of our patients* who now understand that peace and joy are better than the disasters of holidays past.

Harry the hound’s regretful holiday feast

Harry is a true hound dog with a nose for all delectable smells. When his family hosted Christmas dinner last year, he smelled the tantalizing aromas from the turkey and casseroles piled on the buffet table, and put on his most adorable, pleading eyes. Unable to resist Harry’s pitiful gaze, his owner filled his bowl with rich turkey trimmings, buttery mashed potatoes, and gravy. Harry wolfed down his special meal, and settled in for a nap. When he awoke, his stomach was gurgling, and he didn’t feel so great. The vomiting started a few hours later, followed by diarrhea. He kept his owners up all night, and they brought him to South Shores Pet Clinic the next morning, where he was treated for gastritis, and then recovered at home with medications and a bland diet. His owner was thankful he did not develop life-threatening pancreatitis from the high-fat meal, which typically requires hospitalization and intensive care. 

Harry was lucky he escaped with only a gastrointestinal (GI) upset, because the situation could have been much worse. To protect your pet’s GI tract this holiday, take these precautions:

  • Avoid rich, high-fat foods that can lead to pancreatitis.
  • Know that pet-toxic foods, such as onions, garlic, chocolate, macadamia nuts, grapes, raisins, raw yeast dough, and alcohol, must be kept out of your pet’s reach.
  • Secure all leftovers in a pet-proof trash can to prevent post-meal dumpster diving.
  • For your furry friend’s treats, stick with pet-safe foods, such as a few bites of unseasoned turkey breast, cooked sweet potato, carrots, or green beans.

Callie the calico’s catastrophic climb

Callie was a 6-month-old feisty kitten when her family put up the Christmas tree last year. She was amazed at her good luck—a sparkly living room jungle gym, all for her. When her family went to bed that night, she went to work. First, she sharpened her claws on the trunk, and then batted several ornaments from the lower branches. A few broke into shiny pieces that she couldn’t resist chasing around the floor, until she got a small cut on her paw. Next, she pulled a light strand to the floor, where she could roll around with it, and chew on the cord. Thankfully, the cord was unplugged, so Callie was not shocked or burned. Lastly, Callie scaled the beautiful tree’s trunk, hung from a branch to reach a tinsel strand—and the entire tree toppled on its side. Callie shot out of the tree, and hid from her family under the couch. 

Callie could have been seriously injured if the tree had fallen on her, and she vowed to stay away from all sparkly jungle gyms in the future. Keep your pet, and your tree, safe by taking these precautions:

  • Display your tree in a sturdy stand secured to the wall or ceiling with fishing line, if your pet is likely to cause trouble.
  • Supervise ornery puppies and kittens at all times, or place your tree in a room that is off-limits.
  • Place breakable ornaments and toxic salt-dough creations on higher branches where your pet cannot reach them.
  • Keep all electric cords tucked safely away.
  • Keep your tree stand covered to prevent your pet from drinking chemical- and bacteria-contaminated water.
  • Skip the tinsel if you have a cat, as many cats cannot resist the shimmery strands, which can cause an intestinal obstruction if eaten.
  • Avoid using ribbon to wrap your gifts, as cats are also drawn to the shiny, curled tendrils.

Talia the Tabby’s poinsettia pandemonium

At 6 years old, Talia is no kitten—she knows not to climb the Christmas tree, and prefers napping in front of the fire to chasing ornaments across the floor. But, she couldn’t resist checking out a beautiful fresh greenery centerpiece given to her owner. She leapt onto the table, and sniffed the glorious pine scent. Like most cats, Talia loves nibbling on plants, and she couldn’t help herself—she chewed on a few leaves. She stopped when her mouth started hurting, but she was soon pawing at her mouth and drooling.

Thankfully, the poinsettia Talia chewed was non-toxic and caused only mild irritation. But, other holiday plants can cause significant toxicity, including:

  • Lilies
  • Mistletoe
  • Amaryllis
  • Balsam
  • Pine
  • Cedar
  • Holly

Lilies are particularly toxic to cats, and ingestion of a small amount of any plant part, including pollen, can cause kidney failure. To prevent an emergency, never bring lilies into your home, and stick to pet-safe plant varieties. If a friend gifts you with a centerpiece containing toxic plants, ensure you place it in a location your pet cannot access.  

We hope you enjoy a safe and healthy holiday with your furry friend. If, despite your precautions, your pet gets into a holiday mishap, contact us—our South Shores Pet Clinic team is here to help. 

*Although these stories are fictional to protect our mischief-loving patients, our clinic team sees many injured and sick pets from similar holiday disasters.