How to keep your pets safe during the holidays

Scarlett and Mindy, courtesy of Carol

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB)-The veterinarian’s office is not the first place you think of when thinking of Christmas. But during the holiday season, business certainly picks up. That has a lot to do with what pets get into, and a lot of times that starts with the Christmas tree.

Tricia Brawdy, veterinary technician at Orchard Park Veterinary Medical Center, shared with News 4, “Business picks up quite a bit during the holiday season. We have major emergencies, hit by cars, poison toxicities, and emergency surgeries with foreign bodies. Pets getting into presents, pet overdoses. You name it, we’ve got it.”

Michael Rickwald, Dr. of Veterinary Medicine at Orchard Park Veterinary Medical Center, told News 4, “Electrical cords are out, lights are out, and these things can be an issue if you have a pet who wants to chew on them.”

And if you’re tree is artificial, the amount of plastic consumed can also be problematic. Other decorations traditionally put on the tree can cause issues too. Rickwald said, “There are other more small cats concerning things this time of year like chocolate. Ribbon and tinsel if ingested especially by and dogs can damage the intestines.”

In many cases, especially with cats, ribbon and tinsel are commonly ingested. If that happens, surgery is sometimes necessary in order to help the animal pass the foreign objects.

Outside of the tree, a typical red poinsettia that you see in many homes this time of year can be toxic. Rickwald said, “Poinsettias are not as poisonous as people think although they can cause vomiting and GI upset.”

If you’re animal is known for eating plants, keeping them off the ground is a good idea. If you still want greenery around your home you can replace the poinsettia with something safer. Rickwald said, “There’s another plant called a Christmas cactus that people give each other this time of year that is not poisonous at all.”

The most harmful thing ingested by animals this time of year is chocolate.

Rickwald said, “It depends on the amount of chocolate but chocolate in small amounts can cause vomiting and diarrhea. The higher you go in the exposure the more likely you’ll see tremors, and even seizures. In really high doses you can see coma and even death.”

He says that milk chocolate and white chocolate are the least harmful to pets but the darker the chocolate is the worse the impacts could be.

If you are worried this holiday season about something your pet ingested you can reach out to the ASPCA animal poison control hotline at 888-426-4435. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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