​11 Things to Keep Away From Your Dog During the Holiday Season​


The holiday season can be busy and sometimes stressful for us and our dogs. This stress can lead to accidental and potentially dangerous exposures for our pets. Here at Pet Poison Helpline, we experience a significant increase in our call volume over the holiday season. Many of these exposures are the same from year to year, so here are some helpful tips on what to avoid, along with the truth on what is a concern for your dog and what isn't.

  1. Chocolate - Chocolate is the most common dangerous food that dogs are exposed to every holiday. The darker the chocolate, the more likely the risk of chocolate toxicity. Dose is another important factor in determining risk of toxicity. One or two milk chocolate M&M’s, for example, are not generally a concern, but a whole bag is a different story. Clinical signs of toxicity can include vomiting, diarrhea, agitation, tremors, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, and even seizures. Chocolate can sit in your dog's stomach, and we may not see signs immediately. Sometimes there can be a delay of up to 18 hours before there is any evidence that you should be concerned.

  2. Raisins and Grapes – Fruitcakes and all of the extra goodies and food gifts during the holiday season increase the risk of our pets ingesting raisins or grapes. Unfortunately, these can result in a risk of acute renal failure in dogs. Even very small ingestions can result in damage to the kidneys. We often get calls about exposures to fruitcake when it is gift wrapped under the tree, and the pets open it before their owners do.

  3. Xylitol – Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that is appearing more frequently than ever in sugar-free gum, mints, candies, dental products, vitamins, and even some home-baked goods. There are many additional items on the market containing this ingredient, so make sure to check food labels for it. Xylitol ingestion in dogs can result in a dangerous drop in blood sugar, and high doses can result in liver damage or even liver failure.

  4. Ornaments – Christmas tree ornaments can cause injury and are a potential gastrointestinal obstruction risk, but are not usually toxic unless they are the homemade salt-type ornaments. These homemade ornaments can result in serious salt toxicosis, with signs of vomiting, diarrhea, and serious electrolyte changes.

  5. Christmas Trees – Christmas trees are not generally a concern, but we get a lot of calls regarding pets drinking from the water reservoir in the tree stand. People are often concerned about the freshness additive mixed into the water. These additives are typically some type of fertilizer, sugar, and potentially a fungicide. These ingredients, when diluted in the water, are not particularly toxic, but can result in gastrointestinal distress such as vomiting or diarrhea.

  6. Poinsettias – We get lots of calls about poinsettias, but in reality they are not going to poison your pets. They have been hybridized greatly over the years and, for the most part, we only see drooling and potential vomiting or diarrhea when they are ingested.

  7. Decorations – Decorations, such as candles, can result in burn injury. Battery-powered candles or battery-operated ornaments or electronics can be chewed and can result in corrosive injuries to the mouth and gastrointestinal tract when ingested.

  8. Medications or Supplements – Almost any medication or supplement has the risk of resulting in toxicity when ingested in a high enough dose. We see the exposure risk increase over the holidays, with guests in the home who may have medications or supplements in their pocket, purse, backpack, or luggage, and a dog gets a hold of it. Not everyone understands what dogs are capable of ingesting, and well-meaning guests may leave medications out unintentionally.

  9. Yeast Bread Dough – Holiday baked goods are very tempting for dogs and can result in abdominal distention and bloating, along with a drop in blood sugar, retching, vomiting, diarrhea, and a drunken appearance.

  10. Macadamia NutsMacadamia nuts can result in a risk of pancreatitis, vomiting, ataxia, weakness and difficulty walking when ingested by your dog. Signs occur within 12-to-24 hours of ingestion of these rich little nuts.

  11. Garlic and OnionsOnions and garlic can result in vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, hyper-salivation, increased heart rate and anemia with ingestion of both cooked and raw onions and garlic.

We hope these timely tips will help you enjoy the holiday season and prevent any disasters with your pets.

For more advice, see the complete list of human foods dogs can and cannot eat.

As always, the experienced veterinary staff at Pet Poison Helpline is available 24/7 to assist you if the worst happens. Learn more about the helpline here.

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