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Parties can be dangerous for pets

Updated on January 1, 2017
Bob Bamberg profile image

With 30 years in the pet supply industry, Bob's newspaper column deals with animal health, nutrition, behavior, regulation, and advocacy.


Be Careful About Including Pets

The holiday season is a hectic time and, before you get too preoccupied with all that entails, let me remind you of how dangerous the holidays can be for pets. In the spirit of the season, we tend to feel more generous and a little less diligent regarding our pets.

For 10 ½ months out of the year, we don’t expose our pets to certain things, but during the holiday season we bend the rules a bit, which can put them in harm’s way. Because it’s “just this once” we let our guard down. Just be cognizant of some of the dangers.

For example, a miniature or toy breed dog licking the gravy off a few plates could suffer an attack of pancreatitis, and that can be fatal.

During the holiday season, vets tell me, is when they see more acute pancreatitis. One major cause is when owners pour pan drippings from the holiday turkey over their dog’s food.

The pancreas releases digestive enzymes into the small intestine, which become active once they've reached their destination.

In a fat-overload they become active before leaving the pancreas and end up digesting the pancreas, itself.

Needless to say, it’s an extremely painful emergency that is often fatal.

There are other dangers. Chocolate, especially the dark variety, is toxic and potentially fatal.

While it takes a large amount of milk chocolate to kill a dog, roughly an ounce of baking chocolate per ten pounds of body weight is a lethal dose for dogs.

Good way to kill a small dog
Good way to kill a small dog | Source

Alcohol is toxic also, and pets are attracted to it. Drinks spilled or left unattended can be consumed with disastrous results. And they may try to lap empty cans (and their severed lids and tabs) resulting in lacerated tongues.

Another thing about alcohol: as it begins to work its magic, and over-indulging guests lose their inhibitions and good judgment, your pets could easily fall victim to "mischief by the impaired."


Aromas that cling to cellophane wrap and aluminum foil can lead to ingestion hazards in dogs and cats that eat those materials. Ever hear of linear string foreign body?

Requiring surgical repair, it's caused when pets ingest stringy materials, so be extra careful when disposing of juice-soaked strings from roasts and poultry, and with ribbon and string-type gift wrap and decorations.

The danger of linear string foreign body is that the wave-like motion of the intestines causes the organ to "gather" around the string. So, if you see string protruding from either end of your pet, do not pull on it. You could lacerate or even slice through the intestine. Call your vet or the 24-hour emergency vet clinic right away. They’ll likely do emergency surgery.

The taxonomic name is in parentheses beneath the plant name.
The taxonomic name is in parentheses beneath the plant name. | Source

With pets in the house, it's best not to decorate your tree with food items. Eating those decorations, pets can ingest string, ribbon, or wire. And gift wrapped food items pose similar hazards to pets, which can smell the food through the wrapping.

Holiday plants are a concern. While Poinsettias will usually cause gastric upset, Holly and Mistletoe can be fatal. It's a good idea to save the tags that come with your plants.

They usually list the scientific, or taxonomic, name (Latin words, usually with a lot of syllables). It will enable quicker identification of the toxic substance and save valuable time when your vet needs to treat a pet for plant toxicity.


To reduce the chances of pets stealing or mooching food from party guests, feed them (the pets, that is) earlier. Isolating your pets from the festivities is better, especially in the case of dogs.

Even if your dog generally tolerates strangers, he may be less tolerant of a bunch of them at one time, especially with all the commotion that's going on; and that could result in fear aggression or other behavioral issues.

Make sure your pets have their ID tags on just in case an escape occurs. With the doors being opened frequently, and being held open for arriving or departing guests, the opportunity certainly presents itself; another good reason to keep the pets isolated.

It’s great to include your pets but don’t set them up for illness or injury. Stockings full of pet treats and toys, or a special pet food garnished with some canned food are good ways to include your pets in the holiday festivities.

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    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 5 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hello, Highland Terrier, nice to see you. You're right, a lot of it is common sense...but it just doesn't seem to be that common these days.

      I'm not familiar with Xmas pudding, but, yeah, hold the onions and cake. You could give the dogs a few blueberries, cranberries or thin apple slices (just to keep them regular :), though.

      My favorite breakfast is chocolate chip cookies but, alas, I can no longer indulge. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Regards, Bob

    • Highland Terrier profile image

      Highland Terrier 5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Thank you very much for all this info.

      Never heard of most of it.

      Some of it just calls for common sense but the plant info is very useful and the fat item is interesting. Though I tend to avoid fat in my dogs diet so I'm lucky there.

      On Christmas day and St Stephens day we give the dogs the very same breakfast and dinner as ourselves excluding those items which we know dogs cannot tolerate. No onions, fruits, xmas pudding and cake etc.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 5 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi wetnosedogs, good to see you. I imagine this will be one of many such hubs in the coming weeks. It will be interesting to see what warnings other hubbers issue. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Regards, Bob

      Hello, Lana, thanks for stopping by. You might as well warn your friends with larger dogs, too, because it can happen to them as well. It may not kill, but there's a lot of pain and damage between nothing and death.

      I think alcohol related incidents are a bigger threat, though, between dogs getting into the stuff and their being hurt by drunken guests. In the spirit of the season, I think it's quite easy to take ones eye off the ball. Thanks for the comments and the vote. Regards, Bob

    • lanablackmoor profile image

      lanablackmoor 5 years ago from New England

      Yet another great pet-related hub. Voted up. Thanks for educating us all on something so crucial to the safety of our beloved pets, Bob! I knew of the danger of holiday plants, but the idea of pancreatitis due to pan drippings honestly never occurred to me. I'm going to warn all my friends and family with toy breeds and puppies.

      Sadly, I remember hearing of a neighbor years ago whose terrier died from eating mistletoe that had been left around. It's always the little things that wind up causing trouble. "The devil's in the details," so they say.

    • wetnosedogs profile image

      wetnosedogs 5 years ago from Alabama

      Great source of information here for all us owned by dogs to remember. Thanks.