Holiday Decorations: Hidden Dangers

Holiday Decorations: Hidden Dangers

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The holidays are a time for love and cheer. Whether it’s a winter holidays or a fall holiday, we love celebrating with our pets. But sometimes, the holidays can present some dangers that you might not be aware of. From tensile to jack-o-lanterns, there are quite a few hidden dangers such as holiday decorations that your pet could be harmed by when the holidays roll around. If you’re asking yourself “are holiday decorations dangerous for dogs?” or “ is it safe for my cat to be chewing on Christmas lights?” then you’ve come to the right place. We’re making this blog a great big holiday safety list. Read on to see what plants, decorations, and foods could harm your pets this holiday season.

Dangerous Holiday Plants


  • Holly (Ilex sp.): This plant, commonly found around Christmas time, can cause intense vomiting and diarrhea. Mental depression can also occur.
  • Amaryllis (Amaryllis spp): Ingestion can result in vomiting, diarrhea, depression, lack of appetite, tremors, drooling and abdominal pain.
  • Mistletoe (Phoradendron spp.): This plant, another Christmas plant, can also cause significant vomiting and diarrhea. In addition, this plant has been associated with difficulty breathing, slowed heart rate, collapse and, if a lot is ingested, death has occurred. Some animals may even show erratic behavior and possible hallucinations.
  • Poinsettia (Euphorbia): This plant can cause irritation to the mouth and stomach and sometimes vomiting. It has a low level of toxicity and is overrated as a toxic plant. Many people consider it basically non-toxic.
  • Christmas cactus, Thanksgiving cactus, Easter cactus (Schlumbergera or Zygocactus): In dogs, if large quantities of this plant are ingested, vomiting, possibly with blood, diarrhea, possibly with blood and mental depression have been reported. With small ingestions, typically there are no signs of toxicity. These plants are considered low toxicity plants.

Some less common toxic winter holiday plants include:


  • American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens): Ingestion results in weakness, vomiting and seizures.
  • European bittersweet (Solanum dulcamara): Ingestion results in drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, depression, lack of appetite, weakness, confusion and low heart rate.
  • Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum morifolium): Ingestion results in vomiting, diarrhea, depression, drooling and lack of appetite.
  • Christmas rose (Helleborus niger): Ingestion results in abdominal pain, vomiting, bloody diarrhea and delirium.
  • Jerusalem cherry (Solanum pseudocapsicuni): Ingestion results in vomiting, diarrhea, mouth ulcers, seizures, mental depression, respiratory depression, shock and death.
  • Autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale): Ingestion of the bulbs results in mouth irritation, blooding vomiting, diarrhea, shock, kidney failure, liver damage and bone marrow suppression.
  • Thanksgiving cactus (Zygocactus truncactus): Ingestion results in vomiting, diarrhea and depression. Cats also can develop staggering.
  • Christmas palm (Veitchia merrillii): This plant is considered nontoxic.
  • Christmas orchid (Cattleya trianaei): This plant is considered nontoxic.
  • Christmas dagger fern (Polystichym spp): This plant is considered nontoxic.
  • Mistletoes cactus (Thipsalis cassutha): This plant is considered nontoxic.
  • Burning bush (Euronymous alatus): Ingestion can result in vomiting, diarrhea, depression and lack of appetite.

How to Set up a Pet Safe Christmas Trees


  1. Choose the Right Spot. Pick an area where the tree can be enjoyed by the family without becoming a “climbing toy” for your pet. The tree should be secured to the wall or ceiling, away from furniture that can serve as a springboard for your pet. Try to place the tree near an outlet so you don’t have to run electrical cords long distances.
  2. Prepare the Area. Lay down plastic sheeting or buy a “tree bag.” This is an extra large trash bag used for live trees. Center the tree on the bag. When the season is over and you have removed the tree ornaments, pull the bag over the tree. This will catch the pine needles as they fall from the tree – and prevent them from being chewed or swallowed by your pet.
  3. Secure the Tree. Cats – kittens especially – love to climb trees. Many a tree has been sent swaying with a happy kitten on top. Kittens can be injured if the trees or ornaments fall and break. Dogs can knock over a tree by rubbing against or playing under it. You can place the tree in a corner and secure it from two sides to small hooks in the walls. Another trick is to place a small hook in the ceiling above the tree and use clear fishing line from the top of the tree to the hook. Apply gentle tension and tie. The clear line is invisible.
  4. Hide the Cords. Electrical cords are a grave danger to pets – especially puppies and kittens that chew on anything. Cords can cause electrocution and serious injury or even death. Secure the cords by positioning them higher than the pet can reach or hiding them with special covers.
  5. No Hooks. Check your ornaments and replace hooks with a loop of string tied in a knot. Ornaments often fall from the tree and pets may catch their mouths on or swallow the hooks.
  6. Choose Safe Ornaments. There is no perfectly pet-safe bulb, as any ornament can be ingested and cause an intestinal obstruction. Pet “safer” bulbs would be plastic or wood. Glass bulbs on the lower limbs can be especially dangerous. If broken, pets can step on them and cut their feet or worse yet – treat the bulbs like a ball and chew on them causing them to break, resulting in mouth or throat trauma and bleeding. Many pet owners have learned the hard way not to place any ornaments on the lower limbs. Ornaments made of food may be especially attractive to pets.
  7. Ribbons. Big red velvet ribbons are a lovely addition and may replace tinsel and garland that can be eaten by cats and dogs and caught in their intestine. Cats are especially attracted to the bright shiny tinsel. Ingestion of this material can cause intestinal obstruction that may require surgery.
  8. Presents. Dogs and cats love to investigate and most don’t understand that the presents are not meant to be opened before Christmas Day. Decorative ribbons and string can be ingested, gifts can be destroyed by a playful pet. Consider storing the presents in a safe area until right before the holiday or make sure your pet is always supervised while investigating and searching for his special gift.
  9. Sweep and Water. Sweep up the pine needles. Ingestion of needles can cause vomiting and gastric irritation. Keep the tree watered and only turn the lights on when you are at home. Risk of fire is always there with a live tree. Do not allow your pet access to the tree water to drink.
  10. Supervise. The safest thing to do is to allow your pet access to the tree only when supervised. Pets that continue to want to bother the tree should be encouraged – using positive reinforcement – to leave it alone. Bitter apple can be sprayed on low branches for persistent chewers.


Holiday Food Tips:

  • Alcohol and chocolate are toxic – keep drinks and sweets out of a pet’s reach. Chocolate contains a substance called theobromine, and even a single ounce of pure chocolate can be lethal to a small cat. Dark and unsweetened baking chocolate are most dangerous. Symptoms of poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, hyperactivity and seizures.
  • Turkey bones left in an accessible place are almost irresistible to pets, but they can lodge in an animal’s throat or block the intestinal tract. Remove leftovers from the table and don’t leave garbage where animals can get to it.
  • Day old pumpkins can be harmful to pets as it can be difficult to tell when they’ve gone bad. Give your dog or cat fresh pumpkin for a yummy treat but don’t give them your week old jack-o-lanterns.

Indoor Hazards:

  • As mentioned above, certain plants are a menace to cats: Poinsettias irritate the stomach and eyes. Berries of the Jerusalem cherry are toxic, and cause pain, vomiting and diarrhea. Holly and mistletoe, amaryllis, chrysanthemum, rhododendron and winter broom as well as Christmas berry, cherry, pepper and rose can all cause problems to pets that ingest them. Note: Liquid potpourri can cause terrible burns in an animal’s mouth should it be ingested.
  • Space heaters, wood-burning stoves, and fireplaces can cause burns if animals get too close. Keep your curious kitties away from your radiators.
  • Candles are a great attraction for pets, but don’t leave them alone in a room with a menorah or candelabra blazing-the swish of a tail can be disastrous.

Outdoor Hazards

  • Even a small amount of antifreeze is extremely toxic. It has a sweet taste that attracts animals, but it can cause permanent kidney damage or death. The lethal dose is one teaspoon per two pounds of body weight. Don’t let animals drink from puddles, and make sure to clean paws when a pet comes in from the outdoors.
  • Rock salt can irritate a pet’s footpads. Make sure you rinse and dry them carefully. To soften them and prevent cracking, smear them with a small amount of petroleum jelly.

Keep Your Pets Safe This Holiday Season With PetPlace


Whatever holidays you celebrate this winter and fall, make sure that your pets stay safe be heading the advice outlined above. There are many dangers when it comes to the holidays, so we may have missed a few in this blog, but you can read our cat and dog holiday safety archives to learn everything you need to keep your pets safe. Holidays can be a fun time for all when the proper steps are taken. From all of us here at Petplace we wish you and your furry family members a safe and happy holiday season.

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