Tips to Have a “Pawsitively” Pet Safe Holiday

Friday, December 7, 2018

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The holidays have arrived for the year, bringing decorations, gifts, food, and holiday gatherings. As much as we enjoy holiday traditions, these celebrations pose a variety of potential hazards for pets. Dr. Suma Rao, Purdue Veterinary Medicine clinical assistant professor of small animal community practice in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, provides the following tips on how to keep pets safe during the holidays.

Holiday Plants:

  • As we enjoy our annual pick of holiday plants, we must take into account that our pets may see them as an evening snack. “Poinsettia plants, mistletoe, holly, and Christmas cactus are toxic to animals when ingested,” Dr. Rao cautions.
  • For pet owners who choose to decorate with a live Christmas tree, Dr. Rao explains that Christmas tree water is toxic when fertilizer is used.


  • Tinsel and ribbon are tempting play objects for cats, but Dr. Rao warns they can cause a blockage if ingested.
  • Lighted candles around the house can be knocked over by pets and pose a fire hazard.
  • As we put up decorations that use electricity, Dr. Rao points out it’s important to remember that dogs and cats are tempted to chew on electrical cords, which can cause burns, seizures, and even death.


  • Another big part of holiday celebrations is food. Dr. Rao reminds pet owners, “Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, is toxic to animals.” She also points out that Macadamia nuts can cause renal disease in dogs, and sugar-free products containing xylitol are toxic to animals.
  • Dr. Rao also cautions, “Do not feed high fat foods or bones to pets. They could cause gastroenteritis, pancreatitis, and/or blockage.”


  • When the weather outside is frightful, Dr. Rao points out that salt on roads and sidewalks can be caustic to pet’s paw pads. Be sure to wipe their feet after a walk.


  • “Holidays can be stressful to pets due to the high volume of visitors, loud noises, and parties,” Dr. Rao explains. “Try to keep your pets’ daily routine as close to normal as possible.  Let them do their normal activities that they are used to, in order to help reduce stress.”

With the help of these tips, Dr. Rao says both people and pets can enjoy a safe and happy holiday season.  If a pet does get sick or injured during the holidays, the Purdue University Veterinary Teaching Hospital‘s animal emergency service is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  For emergencies, call 765-494-1107.

Writer(s): Amanda McCormick, PVM Communications Intern |

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