The holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, but they can become chaotic, and potential hazards to your pet can get overlooked in the turmoil. A pet owner never wants an illness or injury to affect their pet, but a pet emergency over the holidays can be particularly stressful. If your pet develops a sudden emergency, VetMED’s 24-hour emergency service can help; however, we want every pet to have a safe and healthy holiday at home with their family. Read on to learn about common holiday-related emergencies and how to protect your furry friend.


We treat pancreatitis all year long, but since it is often triggered by a high-fat meal, we see a significant rise in cases over the holidays. Well-meaning owners feed their pets leftover turkey skin, ham scraps, or beef roast trimmings, and their pet’s pancreas works overtime to help digest the fatty meal and becomes inflamed. Pancreatitis causes severe vomiting, abdominal pain, and dehydration, and often requires hospitalization with intravenous fluids and medications for recovery.

To prevent pancreatitis, refrain from sharing your holiday meal with your pet. After dinner, clean up all leftovers immediately, and dispose of scraps in a pet-proof outdoor trash can.

Foreign Body Ingestion

Foreign body ingestion is a constant threat to pets who like to eat non-food items, such as toys, rocks, bones, or anything else that could lodge in their gastrointestinal tract. Over the holidays, your pet could be tempted to check out new items in your home by tasting them. Small holiday decorations and new toys could end up in your pet’s mouth, potentially causing a life-threatening obstruction if they are swallowed. If your pet likes to eat things he shouldn’t, keep all decorations out of reach. After your family gift exchange, clean up wrapping paper and packaging as soon as possible, and warn kids to keep their new toys off the floor. 

Toxin Ingestion

The holidays can bring a number of toxic items into your home. Holiday foods, plants, and other items that seem perfectly safe can be dangerous for your pet. To keep your pet out of our emergency room, keep her away from these potentially poisonous items:VETMed Pet Safety During the Holidays

  • Medications — Although you may know to keep medications out of your pet’s reach, houseguests may not consider this danger to your pet. Human prescription and over-the-counter medications are the most common cause of pet toxicities, and can cause deadly effects. Ask overnight visitors to keep the guest room door closed and all medications tucked safely away.
  • Toxic plants — Many plants used in holiday arrangements, such as mistletoe, holly, and lilies, are toxic to pets who ingest them. Plants may also be treated with fertilizers or pesticides that can be toxic. Cats, in particular, tend to be plant-chewers, so skip green arrangements, or choose artificial plants to keep your pet safe.
  • Chocolate — Chocolate contains toxins that can cause gastrointestinal, cardiac, and neurologic problems. Dark chocolate and baking chocolate contain the highest concentrations of toxins, although milk chocolate can also cause toxicity if large amounts are eaten.
  • Other toxic foods — Many other human food items, such as grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, raw yeast dough, and xylitol (found in sugar-free candy and gum), are toxic to pets, so stick to pet food and pet-safe treats for your canine companion or feline friend. 

Decoration-Related Injuries

Curious pets can land themselves in our emergency room if they have access to holiday decorations, such as:

  • Breakable ornaments — Don’t place glass or ceramic ornaments on low branches where your cat can bat them off or your dog’s wagging tail can knock them to the ground. A broken ornament can cause a deep laceration that may require sutures.
  • Tinsel — Tinsel is rarely used anymore, but if you are going for an old-fashioned look, skip these silver strands. Cats often find them irresistible and ingest pieces, which can lead to a life-threatening intestinal obstruction or perforation. 
  • Christmas tree water —  The water in your Christmas tree stand may contain dangerous bacteria, mold, algae, or fertilizers, and can make your pet ill if he drinks it. Keep your tree stand covered and place deterrents, such as citrus scents, nearby to keep your pet away.
  • Electric cords — If your pet is known for chewing on things, keep all electrical cords for your holiday decorations tucked safely out of her reach. Puppies and kittens are notorious chewers, and can be electrocuted or badly burnt if their teeth puncture a cord. 

Car Accidents

Loose pets that are hit by cars are some of our most seriously injured patients. If you are hosting a holiday gathering, take care to prevent your pet from slipping out through an open door. Even if your pet is not normally an escape artist, the noise and chaos of a party can make her anxious enough to bolt. Loud New Year’s Eve parties can be particularly stressful for anxious pets. If your door will be repeatedly opened and closed, keep your pet behind a gate or safely in her crate where she cannot escape. If she becomes nervous around house guests or loud noises, allow your pet to spend the evening in a quiet room instead of expecting her to mingle with party-goers. 

We hope you enjoy a safe, healthy holiday season with your furry friend. If your pet does become ill or injured over the holidays when your family veterinarian is unavailable, contact us for emergency care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including holidays.