Pet Care Blog

Holiday Safety Tips For Pets: Top 15 Hazards

Dr. Ricky Walther
corgi puppy with christmas present

The holidays are an extra busy and exciting time of the year. Many of us look forward to the season with all of the great food, fun decorations, and festive parties it has in store. Of course, we want our pets to enjoy all the festivities, too, but it's important to be aware of the many holiday hazards for pets.

This time of year brings an influx of poisonous household plants, hazardous holiday decorations, and toxic winter chemicals that can be very dangerous to pets. Here are the top 15 holiday safety tips for pets to keep in mind this time of year.

Click on the links below to learn more about each holiday toxin for pets this winter:

Holiday Plants Poisonous to Pets

1. Poinsettias

Poinsettias and dogs, or poinsettias and cats, are a common concern among pet parents around the holidays, but critical levels of poisoning are rarely seen in pets. Poinsettias are mildly toxic to pets and can cause gastrointestinal (GI) upset upon consumption, so it’s a good idea to be cautious about where you place them when decorating for the holidays. However, poinsettias are hardly ever serious or fatal — there are other holiday plants that are much more toxic to pets you should be aware of.

2. Holly

Holly can be used as a Christmas decor, however, both holly leaves and holly berries are toxic to dogs, cats, and even small children. The plant contains substantial levels of toxic chemicals called saponins that, if consumed, have a greater toxicity level than poinsettias and can trigger gastric distress in pets.

Though the mechanical injury caused by the serrated shape of holly leaves prevents most pets from consuming enough to cause serious harm, as the leaves dry, the red holly berries can fall from the tree and onto the floor for pets to eat, leading to a strong GI reaction. Adverse side effects may include excessive drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, as well as decreased activity and loss of appetite.

3. Mistletoe

Out of all the toxic holiday plants for pets, mistletoe may be the most dangerous. It contains multiple substances — such as lectins, phoratoxins, and toxalbumin — that can cause severe GI upset, along with impaired mobility, difficulty breathing, and possible hallucinations seen as unusual behavior.

If a large amount of mistletoe is ingested by a dog or cat, the consequences can be critical, including a sudden and severe drop in blood pressure, collapse, seizure, and even death.1 Be sure to hang these holiday plants far out of pets’ reach, or better yet, keep them out of the home altogether.

4. Christmas Trees

If you have a real Christmas tree in your home, we recommend securing the area around your Christmas tree watering system. Many Christmas tree watering systems contain tree preservatives in them, which can upset your pet’s GI system. There is also a possibility that the water could have bacterial contamination, which can cause severe gastrointestinal upset in pets.

In addition, Evergreen and Japanese Yew Trees, two popular Christmas tree choices, are highly poisonous to dogs and cats. If your pet ingests parts of these trees, you may notice signs such as vomiting, weakness, drooling, tremors, and difficult breathing. Pets should not be allowed to drink from the Christmas tree water, as the sap from needles can be very harmful if consumed. Many families also add chemical preservatives to Christmas tree water that are toxic in pets and may cause severe adverse reactions.

cat looking at christmas tree

Note: When safeguarding your pets from Christmas tree hazards, don’t forget to secure electric cables and place enticing decorations like tinsel — a foreign object commonly ingested by cats — high out of reach.

5. Lilies

If you purchase or receive any holiday bouquets, note that some flowers, such as lilies, are very toxic to pets. Cats are particularly intrigued by lilies, so use extra caution to avoid placing them on tables and countertops your cat may jump on.

Hazardous Holiday Decorations

6. Playdough & Salt Ornaments

Many of us, especially those with children, have a collection of DIY ornaments made from playdough and salt during various arts and craft projects. While they may be sentimental to us, these ornaments look like treats to our pets. If a dog or cat decided to see how one tasted on the tree, they could find it contains a large amount of salt that causes sodium poisoning.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much salt either. According to Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, more than 1.5 grams of salt per body weight can be lethal in dogs.1.

7. Snow Globes with Antifreeze

Many of us are familiar with the use of antifreeze (otherwise known as ethylene glycol) around the house during winter, but did you know that snow globes are also commonly filled with this substance, making them a potential holiday toxin for our pets?

If a snow globe were to accidentally fall and break, ethylene glycol has a sweet, warming taste that many pets may enjoy, but the winter chemical is extremely poisonous to pets. Tragically, around 10,000 animals die each year from antifreeze poisoning, which has a fatality rate of 44-70% in dogs and 78-96% in cats.2

Prevent this accident from happening in your home this season by carefully placing snow globes where they cannot be easily knocked over. Take the time to seal and store all antifreeze containers away from pets. You can go the extra mile by purchasing an antifreeze that is advertised to have a bittering agent, which makes the taste far less desirable to pets.

8. Potpourri

Dry potpourri is lovely and can cause our homes to smell amazing during the holiday season. Sadly, it can cause** **chemical burns in our pets’ mouths and possibly even intestinal blockage or gastrointestinal upset depending on how much is consumed by our pets.

Some reports have even been made that potpourri containing strychnine, a neurologic toxin for pets, can cause severe side effects, such as seizures, fatigue, and loss of coordination. If you notice any of these symptoms, immediately consult your veterinarian for your next steps.

9. Essential Oils

Many essential oils are toxic to dogs, so burning or diffusing them in your home can cause a bad reaction and/or respiratory issues. While the scent of pine or cinnamon can be lovely this time of year, pets may try to lick the heated oil, resulting in possible chemical burns. Candles and oil warmers are also a serious fire hazard, as they can be easily knocked over by pets in the house. Never leave pets with open heat sources unattended.

10. Fire-Starter Logs & Lighter Fluid

Nothing says the holidays more than chestnuts roasting over an open fire. But using fire-starter logs in your household can be incredibly dangerous as they are usually created with paraffin and sawdust, which can cause moderate to severe stomach irritation when consumed by pets. A fire-starter log can also turn into an intestinal blockage if enough of it is ingested, so be on high alert of this holiday toxin if you have a dog that enjoys chewing on anything they can get their paws on.

Lighter fluid can cause severe stomach upset and vomiting in pets. Vomiting may put your dog at risk for aspiration pneumonia if the liquid gets into your pet’s lungs. If your pet has gotten into either fire-starter logs or lighter fluid, consult with your veterinarian or take your pet to the nearest animal hospital. Intestinal blockages and aspiration pneumonia and can be life-threatening.

Winter Chemicals Toxic to Pets

11. Ice Melt & Rodenticide

As the holidays approach, many of us experience dropping temperatures and ice formation on our walkways, sidewalks, and entryways. Ice melt is designed to prevent nasty slips, but it typically contains salt and other chemicals that can irritate pets' paw pads and skin. If pets indirectly ingest it by licking it off their paws, it can irritate their stomachs. In worse cases, it may lead to salt poisoning, which can cause excessive thirst, vomiting, and seizures.

During this time of year, rodenticides and pesticides that kill or repel unwelcome seasonal pests are common. While these may be effective, they're highly poisonous to cats and dogs upon direct or indirect ingestion. To avoid accidental poisoning this winter, look for pet-friendly ice melt and pesticide options. Keep all winter chemicals sealed and out of your pet’s reach.

12. Hand Warmers

As temperatures drop, folks often reach for disposable hand warmers to keep their fingers toasty. But be aware that many disposable hand warmers contain elemental iron, which is what causes the package to heat up when it’s exposed to air.

If your pet eats part of a used disposable hand warmer, they might develop an upset stomach. However, if your pet consumes part of an unused hand warmer, they could experience thermal burns in their stomach, nausea, and diarrhea, possibly with bloody stools.

In addition, an entire hand warmer could cause intestinal blockage if swallowed, which may result in a medical pet emergency that requires surgery to remove. Due your diligence to properly dispose of these devices after each use.

13. Batteries

Batteries are abundant around the holidays due to an increase in fun greeting cards, new toys, flameless candles, electronics, and more. Unfortunately, batteries can cause internal burns if swallowed by our pets, making them a very real hazard. Keep all batteries up and away from your pets, and never leave them unsupervised with toys or greeting cards that are within reach.

puppy chewing christmas present

14. Silica Gel

Many holiday presents contain little silica gel packs that absorb moisture and keep the product dry until it can be used. While they serve an essential function, they are not safe for pets to get a hold of. Unfortunately, cats often find these packets entertaining, while dogs with pica are known to eat anything and everything.

If your cat or dog consumes all or part of one, they may experience diarrhea because the silica gel will attract water into their intestinal tract, resulting in loose, watery stools. Large quantities of silica gel may even cause intestinal tract obstruction. You might not see your pet get into a pack, so always watch for signs of silica poisoning, which includes diarrhea, fatigue, vomiting, and loss of appetite.

15. Human Medications

Human medications are a serious danger to pets. In fact, over-the-counter (OTC) medications and prescription drugs are the two most common toxins in pets, accounting for 15% of all calls received by the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center.3

While some human medications may be safe for pets in very specific dosages as prescribed by vets — such as trazodone for dogs or gabapentin for cats — many human-grade drugs are potentially lethal. This includes the OTC cold and flu meds you might stock up on at the drug store due to the increased chance of sickness in the winter.

Please advise any guests staying over for the holidays to keep their purses, luggage, and medicines safely secured to minimize the risk of accidental pet poisoning this winter.

Final Thoughts

The holidays can be a blast, and with proper precautions, we can keep our pets safe and having a good time along with us. However, accidents can happen, which is why having a plan in place is crucial. Pet insurance gives you a safety net should the worst happen to your pet. Get your customized pet insurance quote today. We save you time by comparing the top pet insurance plans available to your pet, so that you can have peace of mind knowing you have the best pet insurance plan for your pet at the best available price.


  1. Healthy Paws, "Can Dogs Eat Salt?" Accessed Nov. 30, 2022.
  2. Pet Poison Helpline, “Holiday Winter Toxins,” Accessed Nov. 30, 2022.
  3. ASPCA, “Top 10 Pet Toxin of 2020,” Accessed Nov. 30, 2022.

Do you want to find the best pet insurance?

Let's analyze your pet's breed, age, and location to find the right coverage and the best savings. Ready?

Analyze My Pet

About Pawlicy Advisor

The pet insurance marketplace endorsed by veterinarians, at Pawlicy Advisor we make buying the best pet insurance easier. By comparing personalized coverage and pricing differences we can save you a ton of money, up to 83% in some instances!

Pawlicy Advisor helping a pet parent and their dog find a great deal on insurance

Instantly Compare Pet Insurance Plans

Get Quotes


How Pet Insurance Works

How To Compare Plans

Determine If Pet Insurance Is Worth It

Determine If Wellness Plans Are Worth It

Vet Visit Costs

New Puppy Checklist

Comparison Charts

ASPCA vs. Pets Best

Pets Best vs. Embrace

Embrace vs. Pumpkin

Pumpkin vs. MetLife

More Comparison Charts

Find Your State

New Jersey





New York



More States

Dog Insurance

German Shepherd




English Bulldog

French Bulldog

Great Dane





More Breeds

Ricky Walther, DVM

Dr. Ricky Walther

Ricky Walther, DVM, is a small animal general practitioner in the greater Sacramento, California area. Realizing the positive financial and medical impact that pet insurance can provide for pet parents and the profession, he lends support and advice to companies like Pawlicy Advisor "The Pet Insurance Marketplace") that simplify the process of connecting with veterinary financing resources.

More you might like

woman paying bill next to dog
5 minute read

5 Tips to Save Money on Pet Care, Vet Bills & Food Supplies

black border collie on hay barrel
6 minute read

Border Collie Breed Guide

american akita dog outdoors
7 minute read

Akita Breed Guide

vet checking on cute cat
9 minute read

Heartworm in Cats: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment Costs

golden retriever resting in grass
6 minute read

Golden Retriever Breed Guide

australian shepherd profile
5 minute read

Australian Shepherd Breed Guide

corgi portrait
5 minute read

Corgi Breed Guide

cat carrier in car
6 minute read

Pet Fire Safety & Evacuation Preparedness Checklist

golden retriever vet exam for lipomas
7 minute read

Lipomas in Dogs: Are Fatty Tumors Dangerous?

pomeranian profile outdoors
7 minute read

Pomeranian Breed Guide

vet techs with doberman
5 minute read

Von Willebrand Disease in Dogs

dog ladybug costume
5 minute read

5 Halloween Pet Safety Tips Every Owner Should Know

boerboel puppy walking
5 minute read

Boerboel Growth & Weight Chart: Size Guide For Puppies

sick gray cat with asthma
6 minute read

Cat Asthma: Symptoms, Triggers, & Treatments Costs

holistic vet acupuncturist
9 minute read

Acupuncture For Dogs: Treatments, Costs & Locations

cane corso portrait
7 minute read

Cane Corso Breed Guide: Characteristics, History & Care

bernese mountain dog sunbathing
7 minute read

Bernese Mountain Dog Breed Guide

urinary incontinence in dog wearing diaper
7 minute read

Proin For Incontinence In Dogs

maltese portrait in autumn
7 minute read

Maltese Breed Guide

white havanese dog in meadow
6 minute read

Havanese Breed Guide

samoyed puppy
5 minute read

Samoyed Growth & Weight Chart

white chow chow
6 minute read

Chow Chow Growth & Weight Chart

dog at work
3 minute read

10 Pics of Dogs Working Hard on the Job

irish wolfhound portrait
6 minute read

Irish Wolfhound Growth & Weight Chart

english mastiff puppy
6 minute read

English Mastiff Growth & Weight Chart

dog pyoderma from scabies
6 minute read

Pyoderma in Dogs

alaskan malamute puppy
5 minute read

Alaskan Malamute Growth & Weight Chart

profile of rhodesian ridgeback puppy
6 minute read

Rhodesian Ridgeback Growth Chart

dog mouth wart
7 minute read

Oral Papilloma Virus in Dogs

doberman puppy sitting on tile floor
6 minute read

Doberman Pinscher Growth & Weight Chart

blue heeler puppy sitting at the beach
6 minute read

Blue Heeler Growth & Weight Chart

great pyrenees puppy
6 minute read

Great Pyrenees Growth & Weight Chart

tibetan mastiff puppy on straw
6 minute read

Tibetan Mastiff Growth & Weight Chart

beagle licking hot spot on paw
7 minute read

Hot Spots on Dogs

working cat
3 minute read

13 Funny Photos of Cats Hard at Work for Their Humans

English bulldog with cherry eye
7 minute read

Cherry Eye in Dogs

brown labrador retriever
7 minute read

Labrador Retriever Breed Guide

dog near food bowl
9 minute read

How To Choose The Best Food For Dogs

american pit bull terrier profile
9 minute read

Pit Bull Terrier Breed Guide

Basset Hound profile of sitting dog
5 minute read

Basset Hound Breed Guide

Pug patellar luxation
7 minute read

Luxating Patella in Dogs: Signs, Surgery Cost & More

Mystical dog
4 minute read

What Does Your Dog's Zodiac Sign Say About Their Personality?

7 minute read

Why Is My Pet Always So Itchy?

Longhaired Shih Tzu with bow
8 minute read

Shih Tzu Breed Guide

5 minute read

Can You Give Dogs Aspirin For Pain?

Dachshund puppy looking at camera
7 minute read

Dachshund Breed Guide

Female vet examines dog ear infection
7 minute read

Ear Infections in Dogs

American Bulldog standing in the driveway
5 minute read

American Bulldog Breed Guide

Orange cat with FIV lying outside
7 minute read

FIV in Cats

Dog cooling off with hose
7 minute read

How to Cool Down Dogs

Back to Blog
A family with pets that are insured by Pawlicy Advisor
Pawlicy Advisor is the leading independent marketplace for finding the best coverage for your pet at the lowest rate.
Join 2,438,795+ insured dogs and cats across the US.
Get a Quote
Our pet insurance partners
ASPCA Pet Health Insurance Logo
Pets Best Pet Insurance Logo
Embrace Pet Insurance Logo
Pumpkin Pet Insurance Logo
MetLife Pet Insurance Logo
Prudent Pet Insurance Logo