Holiday Hazards for Pets

This week we are re-posting a great article on Holiday Pet Hazards, written by Dr. Tina Wismer, Veterinary Toxicologist and Director of the Animal Poison Control Center, published Dec. 10, 2010.



Here are some tips for keeping your pets out of danger during the holiday season.

AVOID Holiday Food Items That Could Cause Problems For Your Pet

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Chocolate (baker’s, semi-sweet, milk chocolate)
  • Coffee (grounds, beans, chocolate covered espresso beans)
  • Moldy or spoiled foods
  • Onions, onion powder
  • Fatty foods
  • Salt
  • Yeast dough


  • Lilies that may be found in holiday flower arrangements could be deadly to your cat. Many types of lily, such as Tiger, Asian, Japanese Show, Easter, Stargazer, and the Casa Blanca, can cause kidney failure in cats.
  • Poinsettias are generally over-rated in toxicity. If ingested, poinsettias can be irritating to the mouth and stomach, and may cause mild vomiting or nausea.
  • Mistletoe has the potential to cause cardiovascular problems. However, mistletoe ingestion usually only causes gastrointestinal upset.
  • Holly ingestion could cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and lethargy.Nov 2014 009.JPG


  • Christmas tree water may contain fertilizers, which, if ingested, can cause stomach upset. Stagnant tree water can be breeding grounds for bacteria, which can also lead to vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea, if ingested.
  • Electric cords– Avoid animal exposure to electric cords. If they were chewed, they could electrocute your pet. Cover up or hide electric cords, never let your pet chew on them.
  • Ribbons or tinsel can get caught up in the intestines and cause intestinal obstruction.
  • Batteries contain corrosives. If ingested they can cause ulceration to the mouth, tongue, and the rest of the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Glass ornaments can cut the tissues of the gastrointestinal tract if ingested.
  • Potpourris are popular household fragrances commonly used during the holiday season. Pets are often exposed to liquid potpourri by direct ingestion from simmer pots or spills, or by rubbing against leaky bottles or simmer pots containing the potpourri, or from spilling the containers upon themselves. Oral exposures result following grooming. Exposure of pets to some types of liquid potpourris can result in severe oral, dermal, and ocular damage. Dry potpourri generally doesn’t cause those issues, but there may be problems due to foreign body and (possibly) toxic plant ingestion.


Keep all prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs out of the reach of your pets, preferably in closed cabinets. Pain killers, cold medicines, anti-cancer, drugs, antidepressants, vitamins, and diet pills are common examples of human medication that could be potentially lethal even in small dosages. One regular-strength ibuprofen tablet (200mg) can cause stomach ulcers in a 10-pound dog. Remind holiday guests to store their medications safely as well.

During the holidays, many veterinary clinics have limited office hours. In some cases, pet owners try to medicate their animals without their veterinarian’s advice. Never give your animal any medications unless under the directions of veterinarian. Many medications that are used safely in humans can be deadly when used inappropriately. Less than one regular strength acetaminophen tablet (325mg) can be dangerous to a cat weighing 7lbs.


  • Antifreeze has a pleasant taste. Unfortunately, very small amounts can be lethal. As little as one teaspoon of antifreeze can be deadly to a cat; less than four teaspoons can be dangerous to a 10-pound dog. Thoroughly clean up any spills, store antifreeze in tightly closed containers and store in secured cabinets. Automotive products such as gasoline, oil and antifreeze should be stored in areas that are inaccessible to your pets. Propylene glycol is a safer form of antifreeze. Low Tox™ brand antifreeze contains propylene glycol and is recommended to use in pet households.
  • If you think your pet has consumed antifreeze, contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (1-888-4-ANI-HELP FREE) right away!
  • Liquid potpourris are popular household fragrances commonly used during the holiday season. Pets are often exposed to liquid potpourri by direct ingestion from simmer pots or spills, or by rubbing against leaky bottles or simmer pots containing the potpourri, or from spilling the containers upon themselves. Oral exposures result following grooming. Exposure of pets to some types of liquid potpourris can result in severe oral, dermal and ocular damage.
  • Ice melting products can be irritating to skin and mouth. Depending on the actual ingredient of the ice melt and the quantity, signs of ingestion would include excessive drooling, depression, vomiting or even electrolyte imbalances.
  • Rat and mouse killers are used more commonly during colder weather. When using rat and mouse bait, place the products in areas that are inaccessible to your companion animals.

ALWAYS Be Prepared !!!!

Your animal may become poisoned in spite of your best efforts to prevent it. You should keep telephone numbers for your veterinarian, a local emergency veterinary service, and the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (1-888-4 ANI-HELP) in a convenient location. If you suspect that your pet has ingested something poisonous, seek medical attention immediately.

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center

The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, an operating division of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is a unique, emergency hotline providing 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week telephone assistance to veterinarians and pet owners. The Center’s hotline veterinarians can quickly answer questions about toxic substances found in our everyday surroundings that can be dangerous to animals. The Center maintains a wide collection of reference materials and computer databases that help provide toxicological information for various species. Veterinary professionals provide around-the-clock, on-site coverage of the Center. The licensed staff members share over one hundred and ten years of combined call center experience and over seventy-five years of combined toxicology, clinical, and diagnostic experience. The phone number of the Center is 1-888-4-ANI-HELP FREE (1-888-426-4435 FREE) and the website is


My Son/Daughter/Friend Wants to be a Vet!

By:  Dr. Hilary Slaven

The veterinary profession is a well-known and well-respected one.  It’s not uncommon for clients to call and ask for some advice for their child that is interested in the field.  Here are some tips from those of us that are helping to guide the next generation into their veterinary careers!

  1. Spend time with a veterinarian.  We highly recommend volunteering in a clinic or farm setting with your local veterinarian.  Come ready to help as needed and appropriate, ask good questions, and to learn what a normal day in the life is for a veterinarian.  Most students quickly learn whether or not this is an environment that they could practically see themselves working in.  Also:  most veterinary colleges require volunteer work in a veterinary setting, and require logged hours here.  It’s never too soon to start a practical shadowing experience if this is where your teenager’s interest lies.
  2. Work in a veterinary clinic or farm setting.  In addition to volunteering with a veterinarian (or potentially instead of), getting a paid position could help save for school as well as get your student into the real clinic setting.  It’s important as a veterinarian to understand what it’s like to clean out kennels and exam rooms, answer phones, and restrain pets for exams.  As a large animal veterinarian, it’s important to know how to run cattle through a chute and how to maintain clean horse stalls.  It will not only help the pocketbook, but will help your student to know whether working with animals is the right path for them to pursue.
  3. Learn well.  Work hard at learning and achieving good grades.  Take classes that are geared toward science, animal husbandry, and other necessary pre-requisite courses for veterinary programs.  Encourage your student to do their very best work in all classes that they take in both high school and college.  Learning how to study in high school can really pay off in the university setting.  ALSO:  SAT scores matter!  Take the test several times.
  4. Have your own pets/livestock.  There’s nothing like the responsibility of daily care for your own animals to prepare your student for the responsibility of caring for a client’s animals.  Learning how to observe what is normal behavior and what is abnormal behavior is crucial to any doctor or nurse.  It helps us to know when medical attention is necessary, and helps us to learn how to nurse sick animals back to health.  It also clues us into the responsibility of the cost (both time and financial) of having animals at home.
  5. Shop wisely for colleges.Consider both financial and academic aspects to higher education.  Most veterinarians spend 2-5 years in an undergraduate setting before acceptance into veterinary school.  Veterinary school traditionally takes 4 years post-undergraduate work to finish.  All in all, count on an average of 8 years after high school to your student’s DVM degree.  This means a lot of time and potentially, a lot of money.  Apply for any scholarship that you can.  Work while in school.  Keeping costs down now means less student debt later, when your student is starting a career and potentially a family.  Academically, choose a school with a strong path toward veterinary school.  Research specific veterinary school requirements for undergraduate classes and be sure that your student is setting himself up for success.
  6. Be balanced.  There is a lot of work to be done in preparation for a veterinary career.  Make sure to make time for fun, too!  Most veterinary colleges look for students that have a well-balanced life.  Does the student perform well academically while also able to handle a job and extracurricular activities too?  It’s important to be able to have fun outside of school, whether that’s a sport, an art, or religious activity.

There is a lot of information here!  This process takes time and lots of effort (much like the veterinary career itself).  It is not for the faint of heart, but is a rewarding career for those who wish to pursue it.2005_0427_195955AA