Two Holiday Basics Hazardous to Pets Health: Traditional Elements of the Holiday Season can be Dangerous for Dogs

The holidays bring new sights and smells into the house. Animals are usually curious about these new additions to their home, especially the first year. Owners and their guests need to be aware of how pets react to the smell of chocolate and the sight of a Christmas tree adorned with decorations.


Chocolate is usually abundant during the holiday season from gift boxes of chocolate to chocolate chip cookies to mugs of hot chocolate. Dogs, like people, love the smell of chocolate and want to taste it, but chocolate is potentially harmful. Chocolate candy contains a triple threat: theobromine, caffeine, and fat.

Theobromine is a toxic compound found in chocolate. Unsweetened chocolate contains more of this compound than milk chocolate, while white chocolate contains less than milk chocolate. Caffeine is found in chocolate, but in lesser amounts than theobromine. These two compounds and fat can cause nausea and vomiting in canines; however, theobromine and caffeine can act as stimulants for the central nervous system and cardiovascular system.

Setting a box of chocolate candies on the end table or coffee table while a pet is nearby is a disaster waiting to happen. Some medium to large sized dogs, such as Great Danes, Greyhounds, or Airedale Terriers, can reach counters with ease. It is important to make sure that pets do not have access to chocolate, especially during the holiday season when so much activity may distract owner’s attention away from their animals.

Christmas Trees and Decorations

Christmas tree hazards for humans and animals include trees that are not stable and any movement can cause them to shake. Wobbly trees can topple causing injury by entangling a person or animal. Animals can knock over a tree, especially dogs wagging their tails. Trees need to be secured for pet safety. If pine needles are eaten by pets, it may cause health problems because needles can get lodged in the animal’s esophagus, making it difficult to swallow or needles can puncture the animal’s intestines. Pine needles need to be cleared away before pets have a chance to eat them.

Water from live Christmas trees may contain fertilizers or preservatives, which can be harmful to pets if ingested. Stagnant water in Christmas tree stands can cause a variety of problems for pets, such as vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea. Keeping the stand covered may deter pets from drinking the water.

When pets are left alone, the Christmas tree lights should not be left on. The pet can become entangled in the light cord or may chew on the cord and electrocute itself. If pets are found to be interested in the lights, owners should take appropriate action, such as removing lights from the bottom of the tree or placing a barrier around the tree.

Tinsel and ribbons pose dangers, as well. These may intrigue a dog; however, if ingested, they can cause injury to the animal’s intestines. Pets that have eaten decoration material may become sick and signs include vomiting, diarrhea, and belly pain.

To keep animals healthy through the holiday season, owners and their guests need to observe how pets react to the different sights and smells during this unique time of year. Precautions need to be taken for those hazardous situations to ensure pet health.