Holiday Pet Safety

Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Fourth of July – we always look forward to these holidays with great expectations of celebration. These special occasions involve different clothes, lots of parties, and yummy foods but all present special hazards for your pets.


The candy is a child’s dream come true, but for pets, candy is a major health hazard. Chocolate is poisonous to dogs, creating cardiac crisis if enough chocolate is eaten. However, candy and gums sweetened with Xylitol, a new product of the last few years, is extremely toxic also. Raisins have been associated with kidney failure also. Even eating the wrappers that cover the candy can be a hazard because of the intestinal obstructions that they can cause. Be sure that your pets are kept away from the trick-or-treat candy or your party refreshments to avoid all these dangers.

Halloween will be full of ringing doorbells compounded by the weird costumes on your doorstep. We think some costumes are scary, some are funny. No matter what the costume portrays to us, to our pets it is bizarre and not part of the world that is familiar and safe. Many of our pets will be very threatened or frightened by people in costume, so it is best to shelter your pets from the front door traffic or from the party you will be having. Hearing the doorbell ring so often is disturbing also for our pets. Keeping your pets away from the frequently opened door will avoid a possible escape by your pet as well as shielding them from what they perceive as threatening visitors.

Halloween is a holiday when there is a lot of activity outdoors. It is not safe to leave your pets outside due to “tricks” that can be hazardous to animals. Please, please, keep your black cats indoors. Unfortunately, some people will abuse these poor animals just because the cats are black and it is Halloween!

Dressing up your pets in costume can be a lot of fun, but we have to understand it is more amusing for us than for our pets. Be sure the costume fits comfortably, does not scare your pet, and does not have parts that can be eaten. Try the costume on your pet several times before the big day to get him/her used to the entire idea.


Giving your pets just a tiny taste of that Thanksgiving turkey or ham, or just a smidgen of that stuffing may seem harmless, but it can be a major hazard for your pets. These foods have different fat contents than your pets’ usual diets do, and can cause severe stomach, intestinal and pancreatic inflammation (pancreatitis). The holiday will be much more pleasant if your dog is not vomiting or having uncontrolled diarrhea! Pancreatitis is painful, debilitating and requires multiple tests to diagnose properly. Seriously effected pets may require days of intensive hospitalization to resolve the problem. Even giving your pets small treats as you cook may be problematic. For example, onions can be toxic if eaten in large enough quantity. Avoiding table food treats is the best policy.


The beautiful decorations of this holiday are eagerly anticipated by everyone. They can pose hazards to our pets, though. Poinsettias are striking plants and are hallmarks of the season, but if eaten by our pets can cause significant intestinal upset. The same is true of lilies of all types and mistletoe, so be sure these plants are kept well away from your pets. If you bring evergreen foliage into the house, be sure yew berries are kept safely away from pets also.

Christmas tree decorations can be real threats to pets. Be very careful about your indoor trees. Cats and dogs may cause the trees to tip over if the trees are not anchored in secure holders or even tied to “eye” bolts in the wall. A rambunctious cat or dog may knock down ornaments or even try to eat ornaments. Broken heirlooms are heartbreaking, but needing to have surgery on your pet due to ingested ornaments is definitely a holiday tradition to be avoided. Please do not use the tinsel that drapes strand by strand over the tree. It is beautiful and coming back in fashion, but this is a big danger, especially to cats. They like to eat the tinsel, which then bunches up in the intestine. Often, surgery is needed to remove the obstruction. In the worst cases, the tinsel can cut through the intestine and cause severe complications.

Valentine’s Day:

Chocolate. Lots of chocolate. Not a healthy option for dogs (or cats, who are less likely to sample candy). Please keep all candies away from your pets to prevent toxic events and intestinal upsets.


More chocolate. Please keep that lovely candy away from the pets!

Lilies are a staple of this holiday. All parts of these beautiful plants are very toxic to cats. Be sure to keep lilies in a spot that is inaccessible to your pets! 

Remember “Easter grass”? That plastic packing material that every Easter basket uses to cushion the goodies? That material is really appealing to cats, just like tinsel. Please be sure to keep the “Easter grass” far away from your pets so surgery to remove the ingested plastic is not necessary.

Fourth of July:

Barbecues and fireworks make this holiday unique. The biggest cause of pet emergencies on this holiday are the effects that loud noises have on many dogs and cats. Dogs especially may be very upset by the explosions of fireworks. They may go through screens to escape the house if they are very panicked, and may break outdoor tie-downs or fences to escape their enclosures. If you know your pet hates noises, please keep them indoors and allow them the opportunity to hide in a secure dark area such as a basement, closet or bathtub. Don’t leave dogs or cats outdoors on this holiday. Many outdoor pets get loose and get injured while running free. Please contact your veterinarian in advance of the holiday if your pet is uncontrollably upset by this holiday. There are medications that can be very effective at reducing anxiety associated with loud noises. (These medications can also be used for thunderstorm anxiety.)

Remember, the barbecued goodies may be craved by your pets, but these foods may cause severe stomach, intestinal or pancreatic irritation. Resist those adorable begging pets and give them a small pet treat instead of table foods.

We look forward to celebrating the milestones of each year and often do not consider the dangers our activities can pose to our pets. By being aware of the holiday hazards for your pets, you will be able to keep them healthier and happier!