Skip Navigation
Oklahoma State University
Center for Veterinary Health Sciences

Healthy Animals - Healthy People

The Holidays and Your Pets

Friday, December 5 2014

by Elisabeth J. Giedt, DVM

At OSU’s Veterinary Medical Hospital, we love the holiday season.  Offices are decorated and pictures of pets and children dressed in their holiday finest appear on office doors.

Good food and good friends are a great reason to stay at home and share some cheer.  Sometimes, our four legged friends feel left out and sometimes they are just curious.  Either way, they may get into some mischief during the holiday season.

The best present you can provide for your family pets is a hazard-free household.  While you are working on the pie or turkey and fussing over shopping lists, be aware there are some dangers to pets that come with the holiday season.


Decorating your home makes it feel more festive; however, decorations can be enticing traps for pets. Keep ornaments, garland and decorations higher up on trees so they cannot be consumed by pets. When ingested, tinsel can require complex surgery for removal.

Liquid potpourri can cause serious harm to cats and birds.  While you may enjoy the aroma, especially if you have an artificial tree, your cat may lick or knock over the dispenser causing burns.  Birds are sensitive to the airborne vapors of potpourri.

Recently, imported snow globes have been found to contain antifreeze.  When ingested, as little as one teaspoon of antifreeze for a cat or two tablespoons for a dog (depending on their size) can be fatal.

Christmas tree water, especially when treated with preservatives can cause vomiting.  To be safe, eliminate access to this water source.

Electrical Cords

Exposed electric light cords can cause electrocution or oral burns if chewed.  Just Google ‘protect pets from electric cords’ for a variety of unique solutions! 

Ribbons and Bows

While gift bags are very popular, some gift givers opt to wrap gifts attaching ribbons and/or bows. These beautifully adorned packages are very attractive to cats.  Cats are likely to chew the ribbon, which when ingested, can bind up the cat’s intestines and require surgery.  Carefully dispose or pack up and reuse ribbons and bows.

Holiday Food

Do not give turkey or ham bones to your pets for a holiday treat.  These bones can become lodged in your pet’s intestine.

Fruitcake containing raisins and currants may cause upset stomach and worse yet, kidney failure. Fruitcake that has been soaked in rum or other alcohol may lead to intoxication.  Pets should not be given egg nog or other alcoholic drinks.

Fatty foods such as meat scraps and drippings, gravy and nuts may cause pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) when ingested.

Chocolate and cocoa are toxic to both dogs and cats.  In addition, xylitol, a common sugar substitute used in sugar free gum, candies and baking, is quite toxic to dogs.


If chewed and swallowed, poinsettias, mistletoe and lilies are toxic to most household pets. Choose other types of floral arrangements to decorate your home that don’t endanger your pets.

For more recommendations on creating a hazard-free household for the holidays, visit Pet Poison Helpline® at

The holidays should be fun for your family and not include an unscheduled trip to the veterinary clinic. Oklahoma State University’s Veterinary Medical Hospital is open 24 hours for emergency care. Call (405) 744-7000 and select ‘1’ for small animals and ‘2’ for large animals to alert the team you are on the way.


Veterinary Viewpoints is provided by the faculty of the OSU Veterinary Medical Hospital.  Certified by the American Animal Hospital Association, the hospital is open to the public providing routine and specialized care for all species and 24-hour emergency care, 365 days a year.