Protect Your Dog From Holiday Dangers


It’s that magical time of year filled with food, festivity and friendship.

But many things we look forward to are hazardous to our furry friends.  For example, did you know:

  • Most emergency room visits for pets during Thanksgiving revolve around turkey?
  • Mistletoe berries are poisonous?
  • Those scarlet lovelies — poinsettias — can irrigate pets’ digestive systems?
  • The water used to keep Christmas trees fresh may contain sugar and toxic preservatives?

Turkey Hazards for Dogs

Turkey can be a tempting danger to a dog.

As tempting as it is to give your dog a treat of gravy or golden turkey skin, it can cause pancreatitis. This is a life-threatening inflammation of the pancreas. The pancreas makes insulin and enzymes needed to digest food.

High fat foods can trigger the pancreas to release such large amounts of these enzymes they actually start to digest the pancreas itself. Your dog may get severe abdominal pain, a loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea and depression. If so, get your pet to the vet right away.

Pancreatitis can be a one-time event or a chronic condition. Overweight dogs are at higher risk for developing this condition.

Dogs love gnawing on bones.  Cooked turkey bones splinter. Slivers can lodge in a dog’s throat or digestive tract.

And don’t forget the temptations of counter surfing and trash can dumping. A turkey that has been carved and set aside on a counter for several hours may be nurturing salmonella. Salmonella is a bacterium found in the digestive tracts of chicken and turkey.  If it isn’t killed during cooking, it can infect the leftovers.  Salmonella infection causes vomiting, diarrhea, listlessness, fever and a loss of appetite.

Raw meat has another set of dangers contamination with E. coli bacteria and parasites such as Toxoplasma gondii. For both your own and your pet’s health, use good safety measures to avoid contact between raw turkey, counters, dishes, cooking tools or hands.

Packaging Temptations

Holiday goodies come wrapped in plastic, foil, cellophane and other materials that hold scents and flavors. Chewing on these materials can cause a pet to choke or have a blocked digestive tract that may require surgery.

Chocolates, Candies and Beverages

Chocolate — especially unsweetened baking chocolate and dark chocolate — are poisonous to dogs.  Too often that box of See’s left for guests to help themselves too is irresistible to dogs as well, causing diarrhea, seizures or death.

Don’t forget that the sweet scents and flavors of holiday drinks such as eggnog can tempt a dog to toxic tastes of alcohol.

Sugar-free foods may contain xylitol, which can be very toxic to dogs.

Other Problem Foods

Uncooked yeast dough for rolls and breads can expand inside a dog’s stomach, causing pain and a possible rupture of stomach or intestines. Grapes and raisins have an unknown toxin that damages a pet’s kidneys. Macadamia nuts also contain an unknown toxin that affects dogs’ muscles, digestion and nervous system.

Poisonous Plants

Holly (both berries and leaves), mistletoe berries and poinsettia sap all pose dangers for pets. Be sure to keep them out of reach. Potpourri may contain oils that attract curious pets with deadly consequences. Pine needles can range from irritating to the stomach and digestion to toxic. Consider putting a Christmas tree on a scat mat to keep pets away.

Holiday Decorations

Shiny tinsel, rolling glass ornaments, angel hair, flocking and artificial snow all may draw a dog’s attention with dangerous results. Tinsel can block the digestive tract. Ornaments can break, cutting mouths and paws. Angel hair, flocking and artificial snow are all mildly toxic to animals. Christmas trees are often kept fresh with preservatives that have a sweet taste and scent.  Don’t let the dog drink from the Christmas tree stand.

Preventing Opportunities for the Great Escape

With lots of people coming and going, it’s easy for a dog to wander out a door or gate.  This puts the pet at risk of wandering into traffic or getting lost. Either keep the dog in another room or behind a pet gate to prevent escapes.

Protecting Your Dog’s Peace of Mind

Dogs are creatures of habit.  Holidays can turn routines upside down. Despite all the demands of preparing for feasting with guests, don’t neglect regular walks and play time for your dog.  Be sure the dog has a safe quiet place to retire to when the hubbub gets too much. Remember that holiday excitement can make a normally mellow pet edgy, so keep an eye on your dog’s responses.