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Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree - Why Are You Eating the Christmas Tree?

Author: Dr. Catherine DeJesus

Holidays are great. They are times for friends and family to get together, give thanks, give presents, eat lots of food, catch up and reminisce on the good old days. It is also a good time for our furry family members to get in a heap of trouble (those silly little whipper snappers). These are some possible hazards during the holiday seasons.

-          Tinsel, ribbon and string:  These are lovely ways to make presents and trees pretty. Pets think so too. They are attracted to the shiny tinsel, ribbons and string that adorn holiday trees and packages (especially cats).  However, these can be deadly if swallowed. They can cause intestinal blockage, by causing them to bunch and even perforate, often with deadly results for the cat.  Often you will see vomit, decreased appetite, constipation or decreased stools and even lethargy. 

-          Mistletoe, holly, poinsettias:  Mistletoe can be very toxic and even fatal if ingested by pets.  Holly is considered moderately toxic in small amounts, with vomiting and diarrhea, and fatal in large amounts. Poinsettias are mildly poisonous to cats and dogs usually causing causes stomach and intestinal irritation leading to vomiting and diarrhea.

-          Toy parts/Glass ornaments:  These are of concern when ingested. Dogs in particular are prone to eating toy parts that are left around the house. Especially due to increased stress from all the changes that occur around the holidays. These can cause life-threatening intestinal obstructions. Ornaments can cut the tissues of the intestines if ingested.

-          Foods/Drinks: There are many foods that can cause problems in pets. Be mindful of the most common ones like chocolate, grapes, raisins, onions, garlic, nuts, fatty foods, yeast dough, coffee, xylitol(artificial sweetener) containing food and drinks, and alcoholic beverages.

-          Christmas tree water: It may look funny or practical when pets drink from the Christmas tree water, but they may contain fertilizers. If ingested this can cause stomach upset. Also, stagnant water is a breeding ground for bacteria, which can cause vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea, if ingested.

-          Electric cords: If chewed, they could electrocute your pet and cause thermal burns. Cover up or hide electric cords, never let your pet chew on them.

-          Batteries: If ingested, pets don’t turn into the energizer doggie or kitty. Instead they cause ulceration to the mouth, tongue, and the rest of the stomach and intestines which can be deadly.

-          Potpourris: Exposure to some types of liquid potpourris can result in severe oral, skin, and ocular damage. Dry potpourri mostly causes problems due to stomach/intestine blockage and toxin ingestion.

-          Open Flame: Just blow the candle out, or use electronic/flameless candles.  Sparkie may create a bigger candle (i.e. your home) by whacking it over with his tail.

If you are concerned that your pet has ingested something dangerous please contact your veterinarian right away. We understand that holidays are busy, but delay of treatment could be deadly. Do not try to give a remedy at home as there is potential to cause more harm than good. Give us a call at and come see us at Calvert Veterinary Center if you have any questions or concerns.

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