Holiday Toxins

You Better Watch Out, I’m Telling You Why

By Dr. Lisa Feinstein


The Holiday Season is upon us and with it comes Christmas trees, Hanukkah Menorahs and lots of wreaths, candy and potpourri displays. Some of these are dangerous to you pets if ingested. Take note by being informed on the potentially dangerous things you pet can get exposed to.

Christmas wreaths and trees are beautiful, but be careful. Tinsel icicles that hang from the tree look fun to cats, but if they swallow them, the long plastic strands can get stuck in their intestines and create lice threatening strangulation. Homemade ornaments made from salted dough are extremely salty and if ingested, can create salt toxicity and brain swelling. Poinsettia plants create contact irritation in the mouth and vomiting. Mistletoe and Holly also can cause gastrointestinal upset if swallowed. The worst of the Christmas plants is Japanese Yew which is used for some wreaths. If swallowed, Japanese Yew can cause heart problems and even sudden death.

Candy and chocolate displays are also potentially dangerous. Chocolate has the theobromine and caffeine which can cause increased heart rate and rhythm and neurological problems. The darker the chocolate, the higher is the percentage of theobromine and caffeine and its effects. Other potential candy dangers are xylitol (artificial sweetener) that is in a lot of sugar free candies and gums. Xylitol causes life threatening blood sugar drops and live failure. Chocolate candies may also have raisins inside which can cause kidney failure or have macadamia nuts which can cause stomach upset and pain.

Alcoholic beverages and other ways we like to chemically celebrate during the Holidays can also be dangerous for your pet. Rum-filled chocolates or spiked eggnog can be dangerous. Pets’ livers cannot handle alcohol as well as ours, especially considering they weight sometimes a tenth of our weights. And with the advent of marijuana legalization and the explosion of pot candies and cookies on the market, we have to be more careful to keep any of these out of reach of children or pets who may not realize what is happening to them when they eat a plate of pot brownies or cookies. It’s not funny nor cute to watch a stoned or drunk dog who can potentially die of respiratory depression and coma.

So enjoy all the festive food and decorations the holidays bring, but please keep a watchful eye on your precious pets so the enjoy safe and happy holidays, too!