dog christmas

Five Biggest Surprising Holiday Dangers to Dogs

Everyone’s telling you about the holiday dangers to dogs, especially this time of year. However, many of the articles and blog posts we are seeing don’t include some of the more surprising and less talked about holiday dangers to dogs.

The folks at Pet Poison Helpline are alerting dog parents to keep a close eye on these dangers, as they might just sneak up and surprise you with an emergency room visit for your dog or worse.

Dog dangers for holidays

Japanese Yew

Poinsettias plants seem to be the ones many websites focus on, but Japanese Yew is more toxic, dangerous, and even lethal.  Japanese Yew is an evergreen shrub that many veterinary clinics call “the tree of death.” It looks innocuously harmless, but it is most toxic in the winter and the dried plant retains toxins.  Here is a screen shot from a recent webinar we took so you know what it looks like:

Japanese Yew dangerous to dogs

Clinical signs of Japanese Yew poisoning include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, heart rate changes, trembling, and even sudden death. If you suspect your dog ingested any part of Japanese Yew, do not wait: Seek emergency care immediately, as every second counts.

The canine minimum lethal dose is 2.3g leaves/kg. That means very little can cause huge problems.

But what about poinsettia, mistletoe, Christmas cactus plants, and holly? Yes, they can cause issues but the Japanese Yew is the deadly one. Keep all of these plants away from dogs.  Problem solved.

Homemade Ornaments and Christmas Cookies

Salt is very dangerous to dogs. This time of year, folks are engaged in homemade cookie making, kids are doing their play thing with Play Doh, and homemade ornaments are popular. These all contain salt and salt is dangerous to dogs. Here’s an example from Pet Poison Helpline:

Dangers to dogs at holidays

TIP: You just don’t want to resist those pleading eyes when your dog stares at you as you eat a delicious Christmas cookie. Save the danger and keep some of Fido’s favorite treats with you. When you take a bite, give the dog a piece of his doggie treat. I break my dog’s treats up into pieces.

Grandma’s Bag of Medications

Of all the phone calls and emergency visits to the vet received over the holidays, accidental ingestion of human medications is high atop the list. Family and friends who visit may bring their medications with them in a baggie or tote. Keep this out of Fido’s reach, please.

If there is accidental ingestion, get to the emergency vet, and en route call have someone do this:

  • Call the pharmacy where the meds were filled;
  • Check for any pill codes;
  • Ask the family member what the medications are used for;
  • Call the physician to find out any further info;

The staff at the emergency clinic will need to know what was taken, how much, and what it is used for. Take pill bottles with you if at all possible.

Cocker veterinarian

Household Batteries

All those games and toys need batteries, and wrapped batteries are even more tempting to dogs, especially if said dog likes to open gifts.

There are two primary types of household batteries: alkaline dry cells and lithium.

“Lithium disc batteries are noncorrosive, but far more dangerous than alkaline dry cells when lodged in the esophagus,” says Lynn R. Hovda, RPh, DVM, MS, DACVIM. “Other potential hazards include choking or aspirating a disc battery and a foreign body obstruction. Many of the hearing aid batteries are so tiny that inhalation is an unusual, but distinct possibility. Foreign body obstructions can occur anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract if ingested battery pieces or casings become lodged. Most batteries or pieces that haven’t passed through the pylorus in 24-48 hours aren’t going to move any farther.”

Keep all batteries out of reach of a dog. That means keep the device that contains the battery out of Fido’s reach. If your dog is a jumper, keep the counters and tables free of all of the above thus far in this article.

CLICK THIS: Household Battery Toxicity in Dogs

Batteries can be toxic to dogs

Sugar Free Substitute: XYLITOL!

Xylitol is a popular sugar substitute, and unfortunately, is toxic to dogs.

What can you do as a pet parent to prevent Xylitol poisoning in your dog?

  • Read labels carefully. Anything sugar-free should be avoided.
  • Check if Xylitol is contained in any products you purchase. Keep them from your dog’s path, access, or counter surfing.
  • Companies are not warning pet parents, for the most part, that Xylitol can be fatal to dogs. Ask questions.
  • If you must purchase items containing Xylitol, hide them far from a dog’s reach. In our household, we rarely if ever, purchase Xylitol-containing items.

CLICK THIS: Dog Mom Warns of Xylitol Poisoning (it happened to her dog)

Xylitol poisoning in dog

BONUS DANGER: New Year’s Eve

As you count down to the new year, please keep in mind that strings of thrown confetti can get lodged in a dog’s intestines, if ingested, perhaps necessitating surgery. Noisy poppers can terrify pets and cause possible damage to sensitive ears. Many dog are also scared of fireworks, so be sure to secure them in a safe, escape-proof area as midnight approaches. Special thanks to ASPCA for alerting pet parents of these dangers.

Happy New year dog

More Doggie Dangers

Of course, these are but 5 of the many dangers to dogs this time of year and beyond. There are many more holiday and year round dangers to dogs:

Toxic items to dogs

Did any of these dangers to dogs surprise you? What other items are you keeping far from your pets?

Similar Posts


  1. GASP!!! The Japanese Yew surprised the heck out of me. There’s a giant Japenese Yew along our neighborhood walk & my dogs always stop to sniff it – I think lots of boy dogs piddle on it so they’re fascinated. I need to move our walks across the street! As an experienced dog owner & blogger you think you know it all, then whamo! something like this comes to light. Thanks SO much for sharing.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  2. I didn’t realize about the sugar free items. I mean I knew chocolate was bad for dogs but didn’t realize sugr items would be too. Thanks for this great information on keeping my fur baby healthy.

  3. Great advice as always!
    I would also watch out for wrapped food gifts. One of the adopters from my rescue got a gift that contained chocolate. She didn’t know and put it under her tree. However, her dog sniffed it out. She came home to a shredded package and a dog who had eaten a pound of chocolate!

  4. I keep a master list of ‘doggie dangers’- this goes back to my days of working as a handler for Petsmart- and I update it with any new info as needed.

  5. That’sounds smart to have a doggie treat at the ready when you are eating treats too. Those eyes are hard to resist.

  6. Thank you for sharing. Helpful reminders. Definitely something I’m going to share. I just met acwonam at the vets who told me her dog loves eating onions..plain onions by the handfuls. I said aren’t they toxic to dogs ..her response oh she’s been eating them for years and never bothered her, as she sits with her pup in the emergency suffering from vomiting and diarrhea ?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.