The 12 Days of Christmas Dangers for Pets

With the festive season fast approaching lets not forget to keep our dogs and cats safe.  Join me as I go through my top 12 Christmas dangers for pets.

Don't let this list put you off anything and I am certainly no kill-joy!  If we are aware of the potential dangers and poisons then a few simple steps can ensure we can relax and thoroughly enjoy the festive season!


Christmas Lights

At number 1 we have Christmas lights. They look amazing and no Christmas tree would be complete without them. They are also however responsible for a number of fires every year for a number of reasons. One of these could be your furry companion chewing on the wiring. As well as a fire this can also result in serious electrocution.

If you have a dog or cat who likes to chew then think about getting battery operated lights like these, make sure that they can't get to the plug and cable or only allow them in the Christmas tree room under supervision. Also, make sure you don't overload any plug socket and check the wire for any damage or broken bulbs before turning them on.

Tree Decorations

Sticking with the Christmas tree, at number 2 we have tree decorations. These can pose a risk, especially to our cats. Christmas baubles look nice and shiny and great fun to play with. If they are broken by our pets then they can be very sharp and smaller decorations might even be swallowed whole. Tinsel is another issue. If played with and eaten, something cats are very good at doing, then it can cause severe peritonitis by sawing through the intestines. So-called linear foreign bodies can be much worse than solid items.

The Dark

OK, so this isn’t Christmas specific but Christmas means winter and if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere this means dark evenings. Cats will be more likely to be run over on the road if they are let out and allowed to stay out until late.

Dogs will still need to be walked and again, are more likely to become injured or lost if they are not clearly visible.

Thankfully there are some simple solutions to this ranging from reflective vests, harnesses with torch-holders, collars with inbuilt LEDs or even simple clip-on collar lights. I run through all these options and more in my article on Christmas gift ideas (as well as lots of other gifts that will help keep your pet safe and healthy)!

Christmas Plants: mistletoe, holly and poinsettia

Next we have our common Christmas plant decorations that are dangerous for pets. Mistletoe, Holly and Poinsettia are all poisonous, although thankfully they would need to be eaten in large quantities to be really dangerous. In most cases drooling, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach ache are likely to be the signs you would notice. Holly and poinsettia rarely get worse than this.

Mistletoe however can cause wobbliness, collapse, seizures and even death.To be on the safe side, exclude your pet from the room while you are preparing these Christmas decorations and always hang these plants out of reach of your pet. As a bonus risk (if you can call it a bonus?), if you receive any flowers at Christmas and they contain lilies then these are very deadly for cats.

You can learn more about this in my article on poisons around the house and garden.


Cooked Bones

Our remaining dangers are all food related, it is after all the season to eat, drink and be merry!  We have cooked bones at number 7.  There can be nothing more satisfying to our pet than secretly raiding the bin on Christmas night and scoffing all the tasty morsels found within.

Cooked bones of any type, turkey, chicken, ham, beef are very brittle and have a tendency to form sharp shards that are just great at getting stuck in the intestines and puncturing holes in them.  Make sure this can't happen to your pet and never, EVER be tempted to actually give them a cooked bone.

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Fatty Food

Number 8 is fatty food in general. If you have a dog who has had pancreatitis in the past or is a breed such as a Miniature Schnauzer, Miniature Poodle or Cocker Spaniel (which are all more likely to develop this condition) then you should avoid fatty foods. We know that high-fat meals can trigger this potentially fatal condition so resist giving high-fat food to your pet no matter how long they look at you with their saddest eyes.


Number 9 is chocolate poisoning which I'm sure most of you will be well aware of. If not or you want to learn more then check out my article all about chocolate poisoning in dogs and cats where you will learn what chocolate is most poisonous and how much chocolate your dog needs to eat to be toxic.

Chocolate poisoning is probably the most common emergency call I receive. Thankfully it is rarely serious because the dangers of chocolate to pets is well known. Don’t let this fool you into thinking that chocolate is actually safe. Sure, some types may have very little chance of causing harm but if your dog is a small breed or gets into dark chocolate or cocoa powder then the danger is very real.

Raisins + Grapes

Number 10 is all of the different Christmas foods that contain grapes or raisins. There are a lot of them, from Christmas Pudding to mince pies and fruit cake!

Grapes and raisins have the potential to cause deadly kidney failure, even if only relatively small amounts are eaten. The big problem is that some dogs are A LOT more sensitive to it than others but we have no way to predict this. When the risk is the complete destruction of kidney function the potential Christmas danger is definitely one to take seriously.

Again, I have an article dedicated to the dangers of grapes and raisins you should check out for more details.

Onions + Garlic

Number 11 is not Christmas specific but given the amount of food we eat the risk might be a little higher at this time of year. Onions and garlic cause destruction of the bodies red blood cells causing anemia which can be life-threatening in severe cases.

One of the big differences with onion and garlic poisoning is the fact that the effect builds up over time. This means that while eating a lot in one sitting can cause issues, small amounts eaten over a number of weeks can be just as dangerous.

Also if you’re also giving your pet garlic flea treatment (which doesn’t work by the way and is definitely not something I’d recommend), they develop a different condition that damages red blood cells or they have an injury causing blood loss then they could be in real trouble.


Last but not least, never give your pet alcohol. This is obvious but can be a hidden danger in a rum-soaked fruit cake and is also one of the serious poisonings caused by eating bread dough where the yeast forms alcohol in the stomach. Alcohol causes a drop in blood sugar, a low blood pressure, and hypothermia all leading to death.

That wraps up my list of Christmas dangers for pets. Let me know in the comments below if there is something else you think people should be aware of. Have a fantastic holiday season!

Our Pets Health: because they’re family