Scene 1: A festive dining room table. A blooming Christmas lily centerpiece flanked by delicious holiday food—platters laden with ham and turkey, a steaming gravy boat. Tempting chocolate bonbons and home-made pies tempt on the buffet. A young couple walks into the room and smooches under a mistletoe sprig, their dog and cat following closely.

 Scene 2: A busy veterinary emergency room. A veterinarian dressed for surgery telling the couple that their cat is showing cardiac abnormalities, probably from eating Christmas lily leaves, and requires hospitalization, while their dog needs immediate surgery to relieve an intestinal obstruction after eating turkey bones pulled from the trash.

Decorating our homes with beautiful flowers and enjoying home-cooked meals with loved ones make winter holidays extraspecial. Unfortunately, many holiday plants and foods are unsafe for pets. At Loving Family Animal Hospital, we want your holidays to have a happier ending than the fictional couple above, so we have made a list of five toxic holiday plants and five toxic foods that should be kept away from pets.

Protect pets from these holiday plants

Traditional plants make our homes look more festive, but many, unfortunately, are toxic to pets. Don’t let your pets, especially your cats, near these five flowering plants.

  • Lilies — Flowering lilies in the genera Hemerocallis (i.e., daylilies) and Lilium (i.e., Christmas and Easter lilies) are extremely toxic, and cats especially like to chew on the leaves. However, lilies contain a toxin that affects kidneys, and eating only small amounts can cause severe renal damage and kidney failure. Plus, every plant part is toxic, not only the flowers. As beautiful as the flowers are, keep them at work so your pets can’t be harmed.
  • Daffodils and narcissus — These charming spring harbingers that people love to have over the holidays are related to lilies, and also contain a kidney toxin. The bulbs are most dangerous, but like lilies, every part is toxic to pets, and must be kept out of their reach.
  • Amaryllis — These showy red and white flowers on a single stem belie their danger to pets. Amaryllis contain the toxin leucorin that, if ingested, causes vomiting and diarrhea, drooling, tremors, and depression. Amaryllis plants are also called “Belladonna,” “Naked Lady,” or “Saint Joseph Lily”—no matter the name, keep them away from pets.
  • Mistletoe — Mistletoe contains multiple toxins, none good for pets. Mistletoe toxicity causes gastrointestinal distress, difficulty breathing, seizures, and cardiac abnormalities. Hang your mistletoe high, where agile cats cannot reach. Or, skip it this year, and kiss your loved ones anyway.
  • Poinsettia — Poinsettia has an exaggerated reputation about its toxicity, and is the least toxic plant in this list, but still not something you want your pet to eat. The colorful leaves contain an irritating sap that can burn your pet’s mouth. If swallowed, the leaves can cause excessive salivation, vomiting, and esophagus and stomach inflammation. 

Holiday foods pets must not eat

Like us, our pets drool for the traditional holiday fare, and you may be tempted to give into their big, begging eyes. But, you will be doing them a favor by ensuring they do not eat these five foods.

  • Unbaked dough — Baking can be a fun holiday activity, but uncooked dough is especially dangerous for pets, because once eaten, the dough will continue to rise in your pet’s warm stomach, causing pain, abdominal distention, and obstruction, and will likely require emergency surgical removal.
  • Raisins and grapes — Raisins, which are used in many baked goods, including breakfast pastries, turkey stuffing, and bread pudding, can be extremely toxic to dogs, and only small numbers of raisins or grapes can cause kidney failure. The exact toxin is unknown, but ensure you do not allow your pet to eat any leftovers with raisins, and that any fruit bowls with grapes cannot be reached.
  • Xylitol — This sugar substitute that is now used in many desserts and candies causes a dangerous blood sugar drop in dogs, which can result in seizures, and lead to liver failure. Do not offer pets any desserts that contain xylitol, and check candy ingredients because only small amounts, as found in sugar-free chewing gum, for example, can be deadly to pets.
  • Chocolate — Chocolate contains methylxanthines, which can cause serious cardiac and neurologic signs in dogs. Methylxanthines are metabolized quickly in humans, allowing us to safely indulge, whereas pets metabolize chocolate compounds slowly, and the methylxanthines stay in the system instead of breaking down. This can cause severe gastrointestinal upset, and sometimes death. Dark chocolate and baking chocolate are the most toxic, and the amount eaten also affects severity. Keep all chocolate baking supplies, chocolate candies, chocolate desserts, and chocolate chip cookies away from your dog.
  • Gravy — Gravy may seem safe, but is actually dangerous for pets. The danger lies in its fat. Fatty foods, including roast drippings, sausages, and butter, can trigger pancreatitis in pets, a painful, dangerous illness that typically requires hospitalization. Schnauzers, and obese and elderly pets are at higher risk for pancreatitis, but any pet can be affected. Rich, high-fat foods smell wonderful, and pets will go to any length to eat them, including trash hunting, so ensure that food scraps are placed in pet-proof containers.

Loving Family Animal Hospital wishes you and your family a happy and healthy holiday season. If, despite your best efforts, your dog or cat gets themselves into trouble, or if you simply have questions about pet holiday safety, contact us.