Happy holidays? Not if your pet gets sick. FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) discusses some unhealthy holiday temptations & how to keep your animals safe.

Stocking Stuffers & Pet Treats

If your dog received a stocking full of pet treats, make sure he doesn’t gobble them all up at once, making them hard to digest. Unchewed pet treats can get stuck in the trachea (windpipe) or gastrointestinal tract (esophagus, stomach, & intestines).

If your dog is in obvious distress from eating too much too fast, contact your vet immediately. Some telltale signs are drooling, choking, or vomiting.

Take note of timing. If a bone or chew toy lodges in your dog’s stomach or intestines, the symptoms might not be immediate. Hours to days later, he may vomit & have diarrhea, be less active, not want to eat, & have stomach pain. If the blockage stays there too long, your dog may become very ill. When in doubt, contact your veterinarian, who may need to take x-rays or use an endoscope to see what & where the problem is. 

Tinsel & Ribbons

Decorating your tree? Wrapping or unwrapping gifts? Keep a close eye on where you leave leftover tinsel, string, & ribbons.

Your cat may find these decorations irresistible because they look like easy-to-catch, sparkly, & wiggly prey. In fact, they can cause serious stomach & intestinal damage.

Play it safe by keeping tinsel off the tree & collecting all ribbons & strings after gifts are opened.

Salt-Dough Ornaments

If you’re making salt-dough ornaments or play dough, do not let your pets near them. They contain a great deal of salt, which can be fatal to pets if eaten. Make sure the ornaments or play dough are well out of reach. Be sure to warn children who may want to give a “treat” to Bowser or Kiki.

Holiday Plants

If you have holiday plants such as poinsettias, holly, or mistletoe around, take care. When you display (or dispose of) these plants, your cat may decide they’re good to eat.

Take poinsettias, which can irritate your animal’s mouth & stomach & may cause vomiting & diarrhea. If your cat has snacked on poinsettia leaves, contact your veterinarian’s office. 

Fortunately, severe mistletoe toxicity is uncommon & usually occurs only if your pet eats a large amount. Symptoms include vomiting & diarrhea, difficulty breathing, slowed heart rate, low blood pressure, & odd behavior.

Also discourage your pets from eating holly berries & leaves. In both dogs & cats, the plant’s toxins can cause drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, & decreased activity.

Table Scraps

Don’t give your pet table scraps that are high in fat, such as fat trimmed from meat or skin from your roasted turkey or chicken. Not only can rich foods cause an upset stomach, they can also cause a potentially life-threatening & painful disease called pancreatitis. The most common symptoms of pancreatitis in dogs include vomiting, stomach pain, restlessness, shaking, diarrhea, fever, & weakness.

In cats, the symptoms are less clear & harder to notice, such as decreased appetite & weight loss.

& be careful what you put in the trash can. Dogs, especially, are notorious for helping themselves to the turkey carcass or steak bones, which can get stuck in your dog’s esophagus, or trachea. Sharp pieces of bones can also injure your dog’s mouth, esophagus, & stomach, & can cause severe internal injuries.

Other Human Treats, Including Alcohol

You may know that eating chocolate can be dangerous to your dog or cat. But that’s not the only thing.

For instance, the seemingly harmless mints common in the holiday season can cause life-threatening problems for your dog if they contain xylitol, also found in food items such as candy, chewing gum, some peanut butters, & baked goods, & personal hygiene products, such as toothpaste & mouthwash. 

Symptoms occur quickly after dogs eat items containing xylitol. Vomiting is generally first, followed by symptoms associated with the sudden lowering of your dog’s blood sugar (hypoglycemia), such as decreased activity, weakness, staggering, incoordination, collapse, & seizures. Check the package label to see if the product contains xylitol & call your vet immediately if it does.

As for eating chocolate, some pets develop severe complications, including liver failure, bleeding disorders, & death. As with xylitol, if you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate, consider it an emergency & call your veterinarian immediately.

& keep your pets away from alcohol, which can cause serious problems. The most common symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, incoordination, weakness, decreased activity, difficulty breathing, & shaking. In severe cases, coma & death from respiratory failure (lungs stop functioning) can occur.

Food & Snack Bags

Snacks are everywhere during the holidays. 

Food bags, especially the mylar-type potato chip, cereal, & snack bags, can be dangerous for your pets & dogs, especially, may sniff them out. These bags are thin enough that if a dog puts his head far enough into one & breathes in, the bag can wrap around his nose & mouth, suffocating him. Make sure that snack bags are closed & put away in a cabinet or, if empty, tossed into a trash bin that your pets can’t get into.