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  • Writer's pictureStream Valley Vet

Holiday and Cold Weather Safety Tips

General fall, winter, and holiday stress can make this season less "Ho Ho Ho!" and more "Oh No No!" for families and their pets. We want to be sure to take time out to rest and celebrate with our families, without surprise emergencies getting in the way. Below are some tips for how you can keep your pets safe and happy this season.



  • Antifreeze: While antifreeze is important to help our cars run well, particularly during these cooler months, it can be lethal to our pets.  Unfortunately, it also has a sweet, appealing taste.  If you can, keep your pet out of the garage or away from the driveway as much as possible, and Dog Fancy suggests "immediately washing antifreeze spills off driveways."  The symptoms of antifreeze poisoning include "staggering, lethargy, increased thirst, vomiting, and possible seizures."  If you suspect that your pet has ingested antifreeze, even just a small amount, contact your veterinarian or emergency pet hospital right away.

  • Frostbite: In colder weather, especially when snow or ice is present, pets are susceptible to frostbite.  Areas such as the paws, ear tips, and tail (which are not typically as furry as the rest of the body) are the most vulnerable, so you may want to invest in pet hats, coats, or booties for use during walks or play time in the back yard.  Some pets may not show signs of discomfort or pain due to frostbite until tissue damage is quite serious, so be sure to take the time to check your pet over after outdoor time (this also gives you the opportunity to clean away any sand or salt that may have accumulated on your pet's feet and legs from treated sidewalks and roads).  Watch for hardened or tender skin and for discoloration.  Dog Fancy recommends you "Never use a heating pad or hot water bottle as you may damage nerves and blood vessels," and "Do not rub or massage the affected area" because frostbite can be painful.  Instead, "Immediately have your dog examined by a veterinary professional."


  • Ribbon, tinsel, and other decor: Shiny, stringy, and dangly decorations look like fun toys from a pet's eye view.  But ornaments can break into shards and have hooks attached.  Evergreen decor contains sharp needles.  Ribbon and tinsel may be swallowed whole.  Cat Fancy warns that such items may "irritate the intestines and cause a hole due to rubbing," or cause "mouth injuries."  Hang these items high enough on your tree, walls, and windows that they are out of your pet's reach.  If you have a Christmas tree, you may also try blocking it off entirely with a baby gate.

  • Lights and wires: Colorful, blinking string!  What could be more enticing to your pet?  Of course, bulbs can break into sharp pieces, and chewed wire represents a serious electrocution hazard.  Unplug your lights when you're not home to supervise your pet's activities.  Better yet, hang them out of your pet's reach.

  • Holiday plants and Christmas tree water: As stated in Cat Fancy, many plants associated with this season can be toxic to pets; for instance, "poinsettia, holly, mistletoe and Christmas lilies can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and fatalities."  Also, the water used to support live Christmas trees may contain potentially poisonous :"fertilizers [or] pesticides."  Contact a pet poison control helpline and your veterinarian immediately if you suspect toxic plant ingestion or exposure.


Due to risks ranging from vomiting and diarrhea, to respiratory distress and seizures, to kidney failure and death, the following "people foods" have been identified by as dangerous to pets.  Should your pet ingest any of these foods, you should contact a pet poison control helpline and your veterinarian right away.  For more information about these foods and their possible side effects, visit the ASPCA website.

  • Chocolate, Coffee, Caffeine

  • Alcohol

  • Avocado

  • Macadamia Nuts

  • Grapes and Raisins

  • Yeast Dough

  • Raw/Undercooked Meat, Eggs, and Bones

  • Xylitol ("a sweetener in many products, including gum, candy, baked goods, and toothpaste")

  • Onions, Garlic, Chives

  • Milk

  • Salt

Again, please contact a pet poison control helpline,your veterinarian, and/or a pet emergency hospital should an emergency situation arise.

We hope this information helps keep your holiday season happy, merry, and bright!

Some of the above information compiled from:

  • "States Pass Laws to Make Toxic Antifreeze Less Appealing to Pets" by Maryann Mott, Dog Fancy December 2010, Volume 41, Number 12, Page 11

  • "Recognizing and Treating Frostbite" by Denise Fleck, Dog Fancy December 2010, Volume 41, Number 12, Page 20

  • "Play it Safe" by Erika Sorocco, Cat Fancy December 2010, Volume 53, Number 12, Pages 10-12

  • "People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pets,"



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