Tips for Your Pet and the Holiday Season

As the year draws to a close we look back on the past year with a wide range of emotions. We continue to stand Nova Scotia strong, even in the face of our recent rising COVID numbers so close to home. This translates into a different challenge for each one of us.

Fairview Animal Hospital hopes in light of this holiday season we can all do our part to keep each other safe as more people stay at home and expand their 4 legged family with both puppies and kittens. We have been welcoming an increasing number of first-time pet owners. A new addition to the family is always exciting and a learning experience for everyone involved. We have compiled a list of things to help you keep your furry friends safe during the holiday season and all throughout the year. We hope you find this list helpful in avoiding a visit to the emergency hospital this season.

Cats are unusually attracted to decorations, ribbons, tinsel, and all the adornments we display in celebration. However, if any of these foreign materials get ingested, it can cause a bowel obstruction that may require surgery. Dogs are more interested in the copious amounts of food that always accompany any holiday celebration.


Chocolate contains a stimulant called theobromine – a bit like caffeine, which is poisonous to dogs. The amount of theobromine depends on the type of chocolate. Theobromine mainly affects the guts, heart, central nervous system, kidneys and can even cause death.


While the toxic substance in grapes is unknown, it can cause kidney failure in sensitive animals. Dogs that already have underlying health problems are at a greater risk. Just one raisin can be severely toxic. Experts agree that there is no “safe dose” of grapes/raisins.


The artificial sweetener xylitol is found in many foods, including some sugar-free gums, diabetic cakes and diet food. It causes insulin release in many species leading to potentially fatal hypoglycemia. Dogs are extremely sensitive, and even small quantities are considered toxic. Some sugar-free gums and sweets have very high amounts per piece. Early symptoms of xylitol poisoning include lethargy, vomiting and loss of coordination. Seizures may also occur. If you think your dog has eaten any xylitol, seek urgent veterinary care immediately.


Onions are particularly toxic, and signs of poisoning often only occur days after your dog or cat has eaten them. All forms of onions can be an issue; raw, dehydrated, and cooked. Be cautious of onion powder/garlic powder in prepared foods as well.


Alcohol is significantly more toxic to dogs and cats than humans. When consumed, even small quantities of alcoholic beverages may cause vomiting, diarrhea, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, coma and even death.

Mouldy Foods/Green Bin

Mouldy food, including bread, nuts and dairy products, contain lots of toxins that could make your dog very ill. Make sure you dispose of leftovers carefully and keep your food waste bin out of reach.


While feeding your dog bones may seem like a nice treat, it’s important to remember that dogs may choke on them, develop intestinal obstructions after swallowing pieces of bones or damage their teeth chewing on them. Bone splinters can also puncture your dog’s digestive tract.

Macadamia Nuts

Within 12 hours of ingestion, macadamia nuts can cause dogs to experience weakness, depression, tremors, vomiting and increased body temperature. If you suspect your dog has eaten macadamia nuts, note the amount eaten and contact your veterinarian.

Dairy Products/Blue Cheese

As dogs do not have significant amounts of lactase that breaks down lactose in milk, feeding your dog milk and other milk-based products can cause diarrhea and other digestive upset. Blue cheeses are particularly dangerous because they contain a substance called roquefortine C, which dogs are especially sensitive to. If you suspect any amount of blue cheese has been consumed, you should seek emergency veterinary assistance immediately.

If you feel your pet may be at risk of ingesting any of the above, contact the nearest vet or emergency clinic right away. The holidays will look very different for most of us this year, please take care and stay safe.

Written by Annette Ferguson, CCS