Pet Behavior Digest - My Newsletter For Pet Owners and Pet Lovers 

Dr. Al's Holiday Safety Tips

As a veterinarian the holidays are marked by the joy of families bringing in newly adopted pets. Unfortunately, the holidays also mean some pets that get ill from seasonal foods, decorations, or plants. I hope to warn you about the dangers of a few of these, and if you ever have a question call your vet.


We all like to include our pets in holiday meals along with the rest of the family, but try to keep in mind that sudden diet changes are likely to upset a pet’s stomach. If your pet eats food that is too rich or spicy it can cause irritation to the stomach or intestines. Vomiting and diarrhea are not uncommon. Worse yet, if leftovers are of an especially fatty nature, the pancreas may become inflamed and overloaded. This condition, called pancreatitis, is serious and may require hospitalization. It can even be life threatening. We can run tests that can diagnose this condition within minutes, and start treatment.


Chocolate is another common holiday treat that can cause serious problems to your dogs. Many people do not realize that chocolate can be a poison. Unsweetened baking chocolate carries a high dose of a caffeine-like toxin called theobromine.  All chocolate can be dangerous; sharing candy with your dog can lead to deadly consequences. Symptoms of chocolate poisoning include shaking, acting agitated, nervousness, vomiting, and diarrhea and death. If your dog gets into any holiday chocolate bring it to your vet immediately for life saving treatment.

Some holiday plants that can be toxic to pets include

  • Lilies that may be found in holiday flower arrangements can be deadly to your cat. Many types of lily, such as Tiger, Asian, Japanese Show, Easter, Stargazer, and the Casa Blanca, can cause kidney failure in cats. Treatment needs to be intensive and immediate.

  • Poinsettias can be irritating to the mouth and stomach if your pet eats them, and may cause mild vomiting or nausea.

  • Mistletoe has the potential to cause heart and circulatory problems. However, mistletoe ingestion usually only causes gastrointestinal upset.

  • Holly ingestion could cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and lethargy.

Lastly, keep ribbons away from kittens and cats who see them as toys to be played with, chewed, or swallowed. While chasing and pouncing pose no health threats, chewing and swallowing do, as these can catch in the intestines or stomach, leading to bunching of intestine as the body tries in vain to move the string or ribbon through it. This is a life-threatening condition requiring surgery. Supervise cats that play with string closely.


    If you ever have any questions about your pets’ health call us!

                -Dr. Al Schwartz


Moorpark Veterinary Hospital

484 East Los Angeles Avenue, Suite 104

Moorpark, CA 93021

Phone: (805) 529-7003