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Tummy Troubles During the Holidays

By Colleen Williams
November 16, 2018 • 3 min. read
holiday tummy troubles

If you already know the basics of holiday safety for dogs and cats, you may want to know a little bit more about what can be toxic or hazardous if your pet ingests it. Here’s the ultimate holiday no-no list for furry bellies.

Christmas Tree Trouble

O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree, how lovely are thy branches! Except when eaten by a cat or dog. Watch out for the following:

  • Loose needles pose two big problems: swallowing them can lead to intestinal blockages or puncture wounds. Additionally, they can get stuck in paws and cause minor wounds to full abscesses that will need vet attention.
  • Chewing on fir branches can also lead to irritation of the mouth, causing excessive drooling and vomiting.
  • Tinsel is easily swallowed by pets and can easily form severe intestinal blockages. Surgery can be required to remove these obstructions.
  • Eating ornaments, especially those made of glass, is hazardous as they can become lodged in your pet’s digestive tract. Broken ones can also cause internal bleeding if swallowed, or painful if stepped on.
  • Popcorn or cranberry garlands are appetizing to pets, which will often do anything for a tasty treat. Dogs, and especially cats, will jump on the tree to get at the decorations which can lead to accidents and injury – plus if the garland is treated with toxic shellacs, your pet could get very sick.
  • Choking on ribbon: Like tinsel, ribbon is a major choking hazard, and if it makes its way into your dog or kitty’s intestines, they may need emergency surgery.

Toxic Treats

Most pet parents already know about the usual suspects – no xylitol at all, no chocolate, alcohol, grapes, or raisins. Here’s what to avoid:

  • Hazardous Ingredients. In addition to sweets and booze, remember that caffeine, garlic, onion, and tomatoes are not recommend for pet consumption. Sugar alone can cause stomach upset in pets.
  • Bones. Poultry and fish bones can damage a dog’s digestive tract, or they can choke on them.
  • Fat. Fatty leftovers can lead to stomach upset, weight gain and even pancreatitis.
  • Raw Dough. Uncooked bread dough can cause a condition called gastric-dilatation volvulus (GDV), which is a twisted stomach that can unfortunately lead to death.
  • It bears repeating: sugar-free, pinwheel peppermints and other xylitol-containing Items are a big no-no! If your dog eats anything containing xylitol, including certain kinds of gum, toothpaste and baked goods, you will need to rush them to the vet immediately. Xylitol poisoning can be fatal.
  • Nuts. Macadamia nuts and moldy walnuts can be toxic, causing vomiting, loss of muscle control, seizures and other neurological problems. Almonds, fresh walnuts and pistachios are less dangerous, causing an upset stomach or if swallowed whole, obstructing the digestive tract.
  • In your eggnog, some lattes, cakes, pumpkin pies, and especially gingerbread cookies, nutmeg can be lethal to dogs. If your pup scarfs something down with nutmeg in it, call your vet asap.

Toxic Holiday Plants

While some holiday plants only end in tummy upset, it’s worth it to steer clear of the following:

  • Holly – 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.
  • Mistletoe – 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.

A quick and easy pet proof for the holidays can do wonders for your peace of mind (and peace on earth). Make sure the above ingredients, plants, and decorations are out of paw’s reach and you’ll have a much quieter holiday season.

Want to find out more about what dogs can and cannot eat? Check out our comprehensive guide for more information on “What Human Foods Dogs Can and Can Not Eat.”

colleen williams
By Colleen Williams

Over the past decade, Colleen has written about health, wellness, beauty, and even pets for The New York Times, The Cut, Refinery29, xoVain, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, and Seattle Met Magazine, as well as many beauty brands. She has a BFA in Art History from the University of New Mexico and an AAS in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design in New York.

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