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Holiday Hazards for Pets

With the holidays approaching, our Timmins vets thought it prudent to highlight some hazards your pet might face.

The holidays come with many festivities, decorations and foods for everyone to enjoy. However, some pose serious health risks to our pets.


Poinsettias are plentiful during the holiday season for fundraising and decoration, but did you know they are toxic to your pets? The stem and leaves, if ingested, can cause vomiting and diarrhea. If the vomiting and diarrhea are not controlled, this can lead to dehydration and further illness. The plant can also cause irritation to skin and mucus membranes such as the mouth and eyes. Other common decorative plants such as mistletoe and holly can cause similar gastrointestinal symptoms and should be kept out of reach of pets. A better option may be to use plastic plants as decorations to help everyone enjoy the holidays.

If you suspect your pet has ingested a toxic plant, call the animal hospital immediately for advice or to bring them in for examination.

Tinsel & Garland

Bright, sparkly tinsel is a common decoration used on many Christmas trees and around the house. These sparkly decorations are extremely tempting to pets as toys, especially cats. Often pets will ingest the tinsel. Ingested tinsel and garland can become entangled in your pet’s intestinal tract, leading to serious illness. The tinsel will often get stuck in the stomach and cause the intestines to bunch up, causing a gastrointestinal emergency. Tangled tinsel can also potentially cut into the intestines, causing acids to leak into the abdominal cavity. The only way to relieve the blockage is through emergency surgery.

Keep all tinsel and garland out of reach of your pets or, better yet, do not decorate with them at all. We want everyone to enjoy the holidays.

If you suspect your pet has a gastrointestinal blockage caused by tinsel ingestion, call the clinic immediately, even after normal hours, as it can quickly turn into a life-threatening situation.


Another common holiday risk for dogs is chocolate ingestion. Chocolate and baking are plentiful during holiday parties and are often within reach of dogs. Chocolate contains theobromine, which is toxic to dogs and cats. Ingestion will cause vomiting and diarrhea, usually very soon after being ingested. Toxicity can also lead to increased blood pressure, body temperature and activity levels. Dogs often act extremely excited and often will start seizing. Muscle rigidity or general weakness and increased heart rate are also signs. Advanced toxicity can lead to central nervous symptoms such as seizures and comas. Heart failure and potentially death can occur in very advanced cases.

The potential for toxicity depends greatly on the type of chocolate ingested. Dark chocolate and baker’s chocolate have high concentrations of theobromine. Most chocolate trays also contain coffee-infused chocolates that contain caffeine, another toxin for dogs if ingested. Milk chocolates and white chocolate contain significantly less levels of theobromine and higher concentrations of sugar. When ingested, milk chocolate can still cause vomiting and diarrhea and should still be treated by your veterinarian.

If you suspect your dog has ingested any form of chocolate at any time, call the animal hospital immediately. Even the smallest dose can lead to an emergency situation.

Does your pet have a holiday-related emergency? Contact our Timmins vets immediately!

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Timmins Animal Hospital is accepting new patients! Our vets are passionate about the health of Northern Ontario companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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