Tips on Avoiding Holiday Disasters

Pretty Ribbons and Shiny Tinsel

Cats can’t resist shiny, silver tinsel and pretty ribbons hanging from a Christmas tree, and while these decorations aren’t toxic, they can cause serious injury to a pet if they are consumed.

Pets that have ingested tinsel or ribbon may show symptoms that include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Belly pain
  • Fever

As tinsel and ribbon try to pass through the body, the strands can twist, bunch up, and cut through the intestinal wall. The recovery prognosis from this type of injury is poor. Clients with cats may want to consider replacing tinsel and ribbons with another type of decoration.


If they can reach them, pets can chew and swallow ornaments which may create choking hazards. Depending on what it is made of, broken pieces can lacerate a pet’s mouth, throat, and intestines.

Pets that have ingested ornamental holiday decorations may show signs of:

  • Depression
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Holiday Lights

Decorative lights pose a danger, especially to animals that like to chew. Remind clients that cords should be checked for signs of frayed or chewed wires, and always should be used with a grounded three-prong extension cord as a safety precaution.

An animal that bites down on a string of holiday lights or on an extension cord can receive an electric shock and may show signs of:

  • Burns
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Death

Inform clients that an animal that is injured by an electrical shock should be taken to a veterinarian immediately.

Five Toxic Holiday Plants

Plants are often used to adorn a home during the holidays, but decorating with the wrong plants can turn disastrous, and clients need to have knowledge of these dangers. The following five plants pose the biggest threat to an animal’s well-being.

1. Poinsettias have long been thought to be extremely toxic to animals, but in truth, they are not very dangerous. Signs an animal has ingested poinsettias are:

  • Irritation of mouth
  • Irritation of stomach
  • Vomiting

2. Holly berries and their leaves can poison an animal. When ingested, an animal will show signs of:

  • Intense vomiting
  • Belly pain
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea

3. Mistletoe is extremely toxic. An animal that ingests any part of this plant should be taken to a veterinarian immediately. Symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Severe diarrhea
  • Difficult breathing
  • Collapse
  • Erratic behavior
  • Hallucinations
  • Shock
  • Death

4. Lilies are deadly to cats.

  • The ingestion of one leaf of a lily can cause kidney failure and death.

5. Pine tree needles can be toxic and cause the following symptoms:

  • Oral irritation
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Trembling
  • Posterior weakness

Live trees also pose an additional problem to animals. Often the water is given an additive to keep the tree looking fresh for a longer period of time, and this additive may have a chemical that is poisonous to animals. Remind clients to keep pets from drinking this water.