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We are pleased to present this guest post from Healthy Paws Pet Insurance & Foundation. Founded in 2009, the company offers pet insurance and also formed a nonprofit organization to give medical grants to animal shelters and rescues in their care for sick and/or homeless animals.

While the holidays can be the most festive season for us, they can also be the most hazardous time of year for our four-pawed family members.

Fortunately, there are some simple things you can do to help make sure your dear dog or cat enjoys a healthy, happy holiday season.

Protecting your dog from these easily overlooked top four holiday hazards for pets could not only spare them (and you) a lot of pain but could also save you a lot of money on emergency veterinary bills. In fact, many common pet insurance claims range from $465 for accidental poisoning to $1,284 and up for removing tinsel, ribbon, and other holiday non-edibles from our little, less-discriminating dog and cat digestive systems.

1. Dangerous Holiday Foods

Dog and cat at open fridge (caption: Foods Not To Feed Your Dog)With the holidays come a cornucopia of delicious foods. Unfortunately, some of our favorites can be dangerous or even fatal for the furry ones in the house. The first step to protecting your pet from food poisoning is keeping them on a regular diet and cautioning your guests against sharing their food with anyone who has more than two legs.

These are especially dangerous foods for dogs:


Chocolate contains a chemical compound called theobromine, which can be severely toxic for dogs. Depending on how big your pooch is, how much chocolate they eat and how pure the chocolate is, (generally, the purer the chocolate, the greater the risk of toxicity) their symptoms could range from vomiting, diarrhea, fast heart rate, restlessness, and hyperactivity, to increased urination, muscle spasms, and seizures. If you suspect your dog has gotten into the chocolate, take them to the vet immediately.

Sugar-Free Pinwheel Peppermints And Other Xylitol-Containing Items

Turkey DinnerIf your dog eats the sugar-free version of this classic, red and white hard candy or anything containing xylitol, including certain kinds of gum, toothpaste, and baked goods, rush them to the vet immediately because xylitol poisoning can be fatal.

Fortunately, symptoms happen very quickly after ingestion so you should be able to get your pooch the help they need to get back on their paws in no time. Vomiting is generally the first symptom, followed by decreased activity, weakness, staggering, loss of coordination, collapse, and seizures. Some dogs develop more severe complications, including liver failure and bleeding disorders.

Fat Trimmings And Bones

You (and your dog) may see no harm in sharing some of the trimmings, but your dog’s body will beg to differ. Cooked or uncooked fat can cause pancreatitis in dogs. Also curb your urge to give your dog a bone, as bones are a choking hazard and if they splinter, can cut your dog’s digestive tract. Just check out Atlas’s story in the video below and his $7,000 in vet bills!

Read our Full List of Foods that are Toxic for Dogs

2. Tinsel, Ribbon, And Ornaments

Dog on Christmas DayTinsel and ornaments may not be toxic, but they can still be hazardous to your dog or cat’s health if they get stuck in their throat or tangled up in their tiny intestines. A little nibble and gulp of one of these tempting new toys dangling off the tree or placed within paws’ reach around the house could cost your pet their life or take a huge bite out of your savings—an average of $1,300 to be exact—if you don’t already have pet insurance.

Since cats love string, they’re more apt than dogs to pounce at the chance to play with tinsel that moves with the flick of a tail. So if tinsel is an essential part of your holiday décor, be sure to hang it well out of pouncing range.

The same goes for ornaments. If you don’t securely hang your fragile favorites high up on the tree or place them where they can’t easily fall and shatter on the floor, your curious dog or cat could get a nasty cut. And, if they swallow a piece, they could choke or get many tiny cuts in their tender mouth, throat, or even worse, in their intestines.

3. Holiday Lights And Candles

Christmas PuppyMost of us can’t resist those twinkling, shiny holiday lights, and the same goes for our pets. If your dog or cat likes to nibble on more than their kibble, they could be in for a real shock when they chomp on an electric cord.

Even if you’ve placed the cords where your pet can’t get their mouth on them, be sure to check them for signs of damage and use a grounded three-prong extension cord to prevent sparks, which could burn your pet or start a fire that burns your house down.

An obvious fire hazard, holiday candles should be placed out of paws’ reach. And keep an eye on the candle wax. Hot candle wax can cause severe burns, especially on delicate paw pads.

4. Toxic Holiday Plants

Dog sniffying flowering plant (caption: Poisonous Plants For Dogs)Before you deck the halls with bows of holly or other Christmas plants, make sure your decorating plan takes your pet’s health into account.

Many common holiday plants are poisonous and even deadly for dogs and cats. If your dog or cat has made a holiday snack out of any of the following plants and isn’t acting cheery, call your vet for advice immediately.


Cats love to hide among the colorful red- and white-leaves of these plants. For some, they’re also a tempting toxic treat. Just a little lapped up sap can cause a sore mouth or upset tummy, while a leafy snack can cause drooling, vomiting or diarrhea. You can help ease your little fluffy one’s discomfort by taking their food and water away for a couple of hours until their stomach settles.

Pine Needles

Christmas dogs under treeWhether it’s your curious cat or hungry puppy, eating pine needles can irritate their mouths, cause vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, trembling and weakness in their back legs.


These classic holiday beauties can make for an ugly holiday experience if your dog or cat eats them. The main symptoms include drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite and decreased activity.


Severe mistletoe toxicity is uncommon, but if your pet has a big appetite for mistletoe, they could be very uncomfortable. Symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea, difficulty in breathing, slowed heart rate, low blood pressure and odd behavior.

Pet Holiday Hazards Infographic

Pet Holiday Hazards Infographic

This article was written courtesy of Healthy Paws Pet Insurance & Foundation.

Other Holiday Tips

The holidays are a hectic time for everyone but here are some additional tips to keep your pet calm during Christmas. If you are doing a lot of traveling this holiday season, be sure to find a responsible pet sitter to look after your dog. Finally, and most importantly, don’t forget to get your dog a gift it’s sure to love!

How are you celebrating the holidays with your pup?

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