Are you already thinking about holiday gifts for your pet? Pets are not picky, and they are sure to appreciate a cozy new bed, food puzzle, or squeaky toy—any gift at all. Well, almost any. Unfortunately the holidays also bring potentially harmful food, decorations, and new situations that can be gifts your pet would rather return for store credit. Our Wellness Animal Hospital team shares the worst “gifts” for pets and some tips for holiday pet safety. 

#1: Don’t give your pet pancreatitis

Pancreatitis refers to inflammation of the pancreas, the organ that aids in food digestion and glucose (i.e., sugar) regulation. Large amounts of fatty food consumed at once can cause pancreatitis in pets, and pancreatitis cases increase during the holidays, because people often indulge their pets with holiday treats, foods, and scraps. Pancreatitis signs vary in severity and may include vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, lethargy, and appetite loss. Avoid feeding your pet these high-fat foods:

  • Turkey skin
  • Ham
  • Sausage
  • Gravy
  • Butter
  • Oil
  • Cookies and sweets

#2: Don’t give your pet alcohol

A pet will gladly taste an unattended cocktail at a holiday party, so keeping alcoholic drinks out of their reach is extremely important. Alcohol toxicity commonly occurs in pets who drink alcohol or alcohol-containing products. Alcohol poisoning can lead to dehydration, electrolyte abnormalities, liver and kidney problems, and low blood sugar in pets. Alcohol toxicity signs include:

  • Lack of coordination
  • Excessive drooling
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased thirst and frequent urination 
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Low body temperature
  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Seizures
  • Coma 

Cocktails aren’t the only cause of alcohol toxicity in pets. If your pet eats yeast dough left out to rise, the yeast can metabolize in their stomach and produce alcohol, which can be absorbed, causing alcohol toxicity. Additionally, the dough can continue to expand and cause a gastric obstruction. 

If you suspect your pet has ingested alcohol, or they are showing alcohol toxicity signs, immediately contact Wellness Animal Hospital or the ASPCA Pet Poison Control Center. 

#3: Don’t give your pet an intestinal blockage

Much like young children, pets explore their surroundings with their mouths, and to a curious pet, many holiday decorations look like exciting new toys. When decorating your home for the holidays, consider these potentially dangerous items for pets:

  • Tinsel and ribbons — Tinsel and ribbon that your pet ingests can get bound up in the intestinal tract, causing a blockage—in some cases, cutting through the intestines. If you decorate with tinsel and ribbons, ensure you place them up high, out of your pet’s reach. 
  • Ornaments — Who can blame a pet for mistaking an ornament for a toy? Many look like balls or stuffed toys. An ornament made of glass can cut your pet, or cause an obstruction that may require surgical removal. Place ornaments out of reach of wandering paws and curious noses. 
  • Bones — While you probably aren’t decorating with bones, you may leave some turkey bones on your plate after finishing your delicious holiday meal. Cooked bones are dangerous for pets—they are one of the most common causes of intestinal blockage, and can also break and splinter, and can injure mouths, stomachs, and intestines with their sharp edges.

#4: Don’t let your pets be stressed

You know that all the planning and preparation can make the holidays stressful for people, and pets can be stressed, as well. They can be overwhelmed by the excitement, the crowds of unfamiliar faces, and all the noises that come with holiday celebrations. Help your pet relax by providing a safe haven, such as a quiet room in the house set up with a cozy bed, toys, and calm music. Ensure your pet can access the room any time they need to retreat. Highly anxious pets may benefit from anti-anxiety medication or calming supplements. Discuss these options before the holidays, so your veterinarian can determine what would best help your pet. 

Our pets are our gifts every day, and the holiday season is the perfect time to gift them—and their good health and safety are the perfect gifts. We are here for all of your pet’s health and wellness needs, so contact our Wellness Animal Hospital team ahead of the holidays to schedule your pet’s wellness exam—or during the holidays, if your pet stumbles on a “bad” gift.