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Submitted to the Bouvier list by: Margo Illing, Bouvier Rescue in Hamilton, Ontario

Thank you to: Dr Sharon Brandt, who originally posted this info, to be shared, during the Holiday Season.

During the holiday season, life for your dogs can get pretty hazardous. New plants/trees are brought into the home, packages containing all kinds of interesting things are delivered, candies and other goodies abound, and owners are distracted by all the activity. I've compiled a list of some of the more common hazards of the holiday season, based on calls we get at the National Animal Poison Control CenterRemember that, in most cases, the severity of the problem caused by these products will depend on the amount ingested and the size and age of the dog. When in doubt, call your veterinarian for further information.


Christmas trees (firs, cedars, pines): contain volatile oils that can cause vomiting and diarrhea; needles can cause irritation to the mouth and stomach.

Christmas tree preservatives: most contain sugar and fertilizer-the sugar will attract the dog and the fertilizer can cause vomiting.

Decorative holly: can cause severe vomiting, diarrhea and central nervous system depression.

Mistletoe: depending on the variety, the signs can range from vomiting and diarrhea to heart arrhythmia's, difficult breathing, seizures, or coma. 

Poinsettia: rumors of its toxicity have been somewhat exaggerated. It can cause vomiting and diarrhea, but rarely causes severe problems.

Amaryllis and Christmas cactus can both cause severe depression, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea if ingested.

Household Items

Batteries: if bitten into, the corrosive fluid can cause severe ulcers in the mouth, esophagus and stomach. Intact batteries pose a foreign body hazard in the GI tract.

Christmas decorations: most are foreign body hazards rather than true toxicities. EXCEPTION: ornaments made from homemade play dough can contain high levels of salt. The NAPCC has had several recent cases where dogs eating homemade play dough have died of salt poisoning.

Potpourri/potpourri oil: can cause severe burns to the mouth and esophagus. The essential oils can affect the nervous system, causing weakness, uncoordinated movements, and hypertension..

Christmas gifts: perfumes and after-shaves generally contain fairly high levels of alcohol, which can be dangerous to dogs. Be sure to put up any gifts that you suspect may contain food items such as chocolates, coffee, or macadamia nuts.


Chocolate: dark chocolates, cocoa and chocolate chips are more dangerous than milk chocolate, but even milk chocolate can be deadly in large enough quantities. Chocolate intoxication can result in hyperactivity, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, and life-threatening heart arrhythmia's. The high amounts of fat in most chocolate items can precipitate a bout of pancreatitis in susceptible animals.

Bread dough: yeast from homemade bread produce alcohol-ingestion of raw yeast dough can result in serious alcohol intoxication. Additionally, here is a risk of bloat and gastrointestinal obstruction from the dough as it rises in the stomach.

Coffee and espresso: caffeine is a no-no for dogs, as it acts as a stimulant and can cause severe heart acceleration and seizures.

Macadamia nuts: can cause increased body temperature, muscle stiffness, increased heart rate and tremors.

Alcohol: serious intoxications have occurred when dogs have been given alcohol to drink as a "joke". Also, dogs seem to be attracted to alcoholic drinks, so drinks should not be left unattended.

Final Note

This list is by no means all-inclusive, but hopefully it will help you make your home a safer place during the holidays. Just because your dog is normally a "good dog" doesn't mean that he/she won't succumb to temptation and get into something harmful. One of the most common comments we get from pet owners as they call for advice on poisonings is "but he's never bothered that before!"

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