Winter and Christmas hazards for your pets

The holidays can be a cheerful time of the year.  I personally love the falling snow, the peace and serenity seen when all is quiet, and of course the joy of Christmas.  With friends and family visiting, setting up and taking down decorations, and all of the food, hazards exist that can make the holidays a less joyful time of the year.

Let's begin with a very sincere and heartfelt concern about giving pets as gifts at Christmas.  This may not seem like a big "hazard"'; however, if one would take some time to visit a shelter or humane society facility it doesn't take long to see that many of them were abandoned, left as stray, or worse euthanized due to a lack of careful planning and consideration to the needs of the pet and the ability of the owner to provide those needs.

Pets definitely do NOT make suitable gifts for kids, especially if you believe that it is to teach responsibility and the owners has made a "deal" or arrangements for the children to do all of the work.  If as the parent, one has not planned on having the time and the interest to take on ALL of the care required, a child (especially teenagers) typically doesn't follow through.

Need to consider:

  • Finances - can the family afford the food, treats, toys, fencing/containment, wellness veterinary care, illness or emergency care, etc.
  • Routine wellness care needs - playtime (30-60 minutes, once to twice daily is a minimum), enrichment, training, at-home grooming, etc.
  • Space and room required - in-home space, outside space, a place to run, etc.
  • Grooming needs - professional grooming every 4-6 weeks.
  • Activity level of the owner vs. the pet - athletic or working dog vs. a laid back couch potato.

There are both toxic and non-toxic plants to be aware of all year around; however, some are more popular and more prevalent during the holidays.  Ingestion of ANYTHING (whether toxic or non-toxic) outside of their regular diet can cause any number of digestive issues such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy/depression, and anorexia.  Below is a list of common plants seen during the Christmas season and links to information about each of them.  If in doubt, please visit the ASPCA Poison Control website for a exhaustive list of poisonous and non-poisonous plants.

Seasonal plants

One of the best parts of the season... oh the wonderful treats, sweets, and food!  As a responsible pet owner, "people" food should be off limits, but let's be honest Fido likely gets some of the scraps off the plate or a sample of goodies "accidentally" dropped off the table.  Keep in mind the ingestion of anything outside of the normal diet can cause digestive upset (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, etc.) the following food items have additional concerns for toxicities.  Please do NOT feed pets Christmas treats not meant for them!

Foods to avoid feeding your pets

  • Chocolate - Also includes caffeine
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Alcohol – unbaked yeast dough, rum/brandy soaked desserts, rotten apples, chafing fuel
  • Table salt – homemade Christmas ornaments or play dough
  • Grapes/raisins
  • Xylitol – artificial sweetener found in gum
  • Onions
  • Garlic

Holiday decorations

Cats especially seem to be attracted to all of the flashy and shiny decorations that come out during the Christmas season.  Christmas tree can pose a hazard in a variety of ways so please secure them from falling.  

  • Tinsel – linear foreign body
  • Christmas lights – electrical shock, falling tree
  • Liquid potpourri – ulcers, neurologic signs, respiratory injury, liver injury
  • Glass ornaments
  • Silica gel – NOT toxic
  • Batteries – corrosive injury
  • Christmas Tree – falling hazard, the water under the tree (bacteria, mold, fertilizers)

Winter hazards

  • Temperature – hypothermia
  • Antifreeze – neurologic signs, kidney failure
  • Ice melt – ulcers/erosions

We want to wish all of you a safe and very Merry Christmas! Please take a moment to prepare for the winter and holiday season by keeping your pets safe!  

If you have a question or pet-related topic for Dr. Schenck to discuss in an upcoming article, email it to 


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Phone: (812) 448-1415

Fax: (812) 448-2853
E-mail: info@fourlovingpaws.com


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Brazil, IN 47834


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