As we begin to prepare for the busy holiday season this year, it is important to keep in mind that many common holiday treats and decorations can be very toxic to our pets – particularly as we are spending more time at home with them and may be tempted to share in our indulgences. The effect of the toxin depends on many variables including how much of the toxin was ingested, the size of the animal, and how much time has passed since ingestion. While any toxicity can quickly become an emergency situation, the most detrimental items are listed below:
Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate!
Poinsettias (particularly in cats)
Holly berries and mistletoes
Decorations such as tinsel and old fashioned bubble lights
Fruit cakes containing raisins and currants
Sugar-free gums and candy containing Xylitol
Leftover fatty meat scraps (especially with cooked bones in them)
Clinical signs of toxicity may also vary depending on the type of toxin that is
ingested, however most commonly the first signs are vomiting and diarrhea. Some animals may also experience acute lethargy or incoordination, and in some cases the toxin can cause excitability (most commonly seen in chocolate toxicity due to its caffeine content). The most successful form of treatment of any toxicity is to remove the toxin from the body as quickly as possible. If discovered early enough, your veterinarian can induce vomiting in an attempt to achieve this. From there your pet may require supportive treatment such as intravenous fluids or a toxin absorption treatment such as activated charcoal administration. Depending on the length of time the toxin remains in the body, your pet may require hospitalization until the effects of the toxicity wears off.
It can be quite alarming for pet owners to witness their pet experiencing toxicity and transporting them to the vet can be rather stressful. Consider seeking assistance from a professional pet transport service such as Toronto Animal Mobility Services for peace of mind!
**In the case that you are unable to reach your veterinarian or they are closed, the Pet Poison Helpline is available 24/7 in North America by calling 800-213-6680.
Additional information can be found on their website at
Photo by Jasmin Schuler
Caitlyn A. is a Registered Veterinary Technician and a valued member of Toronto AMS.