Veterinary Viewpoints: Look out for your pets during holidays

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Thursday, December 2, 2021

Media contact: Derinda Blakeney, APR | OSU University of Veterinary Medicine | 405-744-6740 |

The holidays are a great time to share some joy. Sometimes our four-legged friends feel left out and sometimes they are just curious.

Either way, they can get up to mischief during the holiday season.

The best gift you can give your pet is a safe home. While working on the cake or turkey and grappling with shopping lists, be aware that the holiday season brings some dangers to pets.


When you decorate your home it feels more festive; However, decorations can be tempting traps for pets. Keep ornaments, garlands, and decorations higher up on the trees so they cannot be consumed by pets. If ingested, tinsel may require complex surgery to remove it.

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

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

Power cord

Exposed electric light cables can cause electric shock or oral burns when chewing. Just Google “Protect Pets From Power Cables” for a variety of unique solutions!

Ribbons and bows

While gift bags are very popular, some gift givers choose to wrap gifts with ribbons and / or bows. These beautifully decorated packages are very attractive to cats. It is likely that cats will chew the tape, which if ingested can bind the cat’s intestines together and require surgery. Dispose of ribbons and bows carefully after unpacking.

Festive meal

Don’t give your pets turkey or ham bones as a holiday treat. These bones can get stuck in your pet’s intestines.

Raisin and currant fruit cakes can cause stomach upset and, worse, kidney failure. Fruit cake soaked in rum or other alcohol can cause poisoning. Pets should not be given eggnog or other alcoholic beverages.

Fatty foods such as leftover meat and roast fat, gravies and nuts can cause pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) if ingested.

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


When chewed and swallowed: Poinsettias, mistletoe, and lilies are poisonous to most pets. Choose other types of flower arrangements to decorate your home that will not harm your pets.

The vacation should be fun for your family and not involve an unscheduled visit to the veterinary clinic. However, if you need us, Oklahoma State University’s Veterinary Medical Hospital is open 24/7 for emergency care. Call 405-744-7000 to notify the team that you are on the way.

About the author: Paul DeMars, DVM, DABVP Canine / Feline, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences. Dr. DeMars specializes in group practice that is open to the public.

Veterinary Viewpoints is offered by the faculty of the OSU Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. The American Animal Hospital Association-certified hospital is open to the public and provides routine and specialized care for all animal species, as well as 24-hour emergency care, 365 days a year. Call 405-744-7000 for an appointment or more information.

OSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine is one of 32 accredited veterinary colleges in the United States and the only veterinary college in Oklahoma. The college’s Boren Veterinary Medical Hospital is open to the public and provides routine and specialized care for small and large animals. The hospital provides 24-hour emergency care and is certified by the American Animal Hospital Association. For more information, visit or call 405-744-7000.