Christmas Story: Pet Safety for the holidays

Animal Medical Center at the Mt. Pleasant Christmas Parade

One Christmas long ago, I happened upon a beautiful kitty dookie in the liter box; a wonderful little cat turd wrapped like a barber-pole with a glistening piece of tinsel.  My roommate and I placed a hook in the decorative feces and hung it neatly on the Christmas tree.  (There are no excuses for being young and stupid.)  To our delight, Willie – my tinsel eating cat, produced several more “natural” ornaments for our tree that year.  The tree was beautiful but pungent.

Only later, after extensive medical training, did I realize how fortunate Willie was that the foreign body hadn’t created a life threatening situation for my cat.  A glance around the room at all the festive decorations in your house should serve as a warning that the Yuletide could bring harm to our unsuspecting pets.


  • The fore mentioned tinsel.  Pretty as they are, tinsel and ribbons pose serious medical issues if ingested.  Linear items can carve up an animal’s digestive tract in epic proportions, leading to hospitalization, surgery and /or death.  Further, avoid tying ribbons and such around the pet’s necks, these pose a choking hazard.
  • Electrical cords and strings of lights if chewed can unfavorably alter your pet’s heart rate/rhythm, cause difficulty breathing, burned mouths or seizures.  The cords if pulled can also give any dog leverage to the pull the whole Christmas tree to the floor.  Ah yes, the tree…
  • Pine needles are relatively harmless unless you consider the wounded pride animal’s experience as you stress to them that “no, animal could be stupid enough to eat…”  Don’t add fertilizers to the tree water; if your dog sips from the toilet, he will drink from the tree stand. Even stagnant water is a threat to pet health.  Keep your sentimental and extremely fragile ornaments off the lower branches (obvious to cat people).  If your cat is a climber, wait to hang the decorations for a few days until you are certain your “little kitter” isn’t squirreling up to the Christmas star near the ceiling.  Better yet, secure the tree to the wall so it doesn’t suddenly land in your lap while catching up on “Duck Dynasty.”
  • Mistletoe and holly are serious causes of vomiting and diarrhea if eaten by our pets.  Heart irregularities are also possible.  Poisettias and Christmas cactus, are extremely irritating to the mouths of dogs and especially cats.
  • Be careful about treats too.  A lot of those Christmas sweets like cookies and other baked goods use Xylitol as a sweetener (found in chewing gums and some tooth paste too), this can bring on a rapid decline in your pet’s health by shutting down liver function. Chocolates lead to vomiting and diarrhea and certain levels can be fatal.  Fatty foods off the holiday table…bad.  Turkey or poultry bones… worse.  Alcohol, (eggnog) may be okay for you to help tolerate annoying uncles…out of the question for pets.

If you encounter any of these during your 12 Days of Christmas…please contact Animal Medical Center of Mt. Pleasant immediately.

Finally, and this might be off your radar, but constant visitors and activity around the holidays can be confusing and stressful for pets.  Stress may show up as stomach discomfort, diarrhea and irritability.

Constant holiday traffic has not been something I have to be concerned with since the year I hung cat poop from my tree.  Good memories.

Merry Christmas.

Picture of the Animal Medical Center of Mt. Pleasant Staff at the 2014 Mt. Pleasant Christmas Parade.


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