Watch out for these holiday threats to your pets

NorthStar VETS’ Chief of Staff, Dr. Daniel Stobie, has these reminders for pet owners, which are always important to remember at this time of year.


Some pets like to chew on decorations, which can be harmful to their health.Cats love to play with tinsel and ribbon. Try to keep pets from playing with these decorations as they can quickly and easily become what’s called a linear foreign body, which means something stuck in the esophagus or intestines.

Some pets, especially puppies, will chew on Christmas lights and wires. In addition to the obvious electric shock risk posed by this, pets can also be burned in their mouth, and experience pulmonary edema, which is fluid accumulation in the lungs.


Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are mildly toxic to animals and pets should be discouraged from eating them. Additionally, the water at the base of Christmas trees can cause gastrointestinal upset to pets, and pet owners should do all they can to keep pets from drinking it.


Limit table foods that pets eat, and always avoid bones.Chocolate and certain nuts can be toxic to pets, especially dogs. The main chemical in chocolate that creates toxicity is called theobromine. Dogs who eat too much chocolate, especially if it is dark chocolate or baker’s chocolate, may experience tremors and heart abnormalities. This can be life threatening to your pet.

Also, while many people enjoy sharing table food with pets at a holiday meal, limit it to just a couple of tablespoons. Pets are more sensitive to sudden dietary changes and fatty foods, and can experience pancreatitis, which is an inflammation of the pancreas. Pancreatitis can be life threatening.

And never give bones to your pets! They can splinter and do damage to the intestines as they pass through your pet, or get stuck and become a foreign body, which may require surgery to remove.

Other threats

Anti-freeze is always an issue for pets when the weather gets cold. The active component of anti-freeze, a chemical called ethylene glycol, causes kidney failure. The good news is that there is an antidote, so get your pet to the veterinary emergency hospital as soon as you can as the situation becomes more life-threatening after several hours. Because ethylene glycol is an alcohol-based chemical, pets who have consumed anti-freeze appear “drunk.”

Call the animal poison control or pet poison hotlines if you think your pet has eaten something poisonous.

By knowing what the biggest holiday threats are and taking some time to create a safer environment for your pet, you can avoid a potentially life-threatening situation for your pet. As always, be prepared and know where your nearest veterinary emergency hospital is and how to get there, and have their phone number programmed into your phone or posted on your refrigerator. You might even want to create an account for them to speed up the check-in process.

If NorthStar VETS is your nearest veterinary emergency hospital, know that we are always open, day and night, even through the holidays. Our phone number is 609.259.8300.

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