While we gather this week with friends and family to celebrate Thanksgiving, our 4-legged family members often linger hopefully near the table.  Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s Eve will soon arrive in quick succession.  Christmas trees are going up, parties are planned, and holiday lights are brightening our desert.  However, this time of year also sees a dramatic increase in emergency trips to the vet.  In the frenzy of activity, we may overlook the dangers that certain holiday plants, foods and decorations pose to cats and dogs.

One of your dinner party guests might be tempted to give Benji a sample from his plate.  Sugar, chocolate, turkey bones, gravy, and avocados can be harmful to a dog.  Onions, garlic, raisins, grapes, and nuts, (particularly walnuts and macadamia nuts) are very dangerous when consumed by a dog in large quantities.  If you’re hosting a large party, keep the critters in a back room. 

Keep that bowl of holiday candy off the coffee table where a pet can reach it.  Chocolate in particular is very dangerous for animals. Candy and gum containing the artificial sweetener xylitol are very hazardous.   


Poinsettias are not as toxic as we once believed, however sampling a leaf from one can make your dog mildly ill or cause swelling to the skin; worse than poinsettias are holly, lilies and mistletoe.  A kiss under the mistletoe might add romance to your holiday, but it can cause erratic behavior and even cardiovascular collapse when ingested by your pet.  Mistletoe berries can also be hazardous. 

Dr. Lillian Roberts of Country Club Animal Clinic sees a dramatic influx of patients this time of year.  She advises, “Avoid ornaments or decorations that are small and easy to swallow, as these can quickly lead to intestinal blockage and emergency surgery.  This also includes tinsel, ribbon, and small loose bells that cats find irresistible. I once x-rayed a dog only to discover an entire glass ornament sitting in his stomach.  Surgery was needed to get the ornament out.” 

Dr. Roberts offers these tips to keep your animals safe and healthy:

Unplug Christmas tree lights and other electrical decorations when you are not home.  Cords may attract kittens and puppies, and if chewed when plugged in can be very dangerous.

Make sure anything you add to the water under your tree is not poisonous.  Pets WILL drink from this bowl. 

You can feed your dog turkey in moderation, but don’t include the skin, bones or gravy.    

If your dog has a sensitive stomach or food allergies, don’t share any of your holiday meal.   

Make sure visitors don’t leave gates, doors, and windows open, allowing animals to escape. 

Refrain from surprising someone with an animal as a gift.  Let people experience the joy of selecting a pet of their preference.  Accompany them to a shelter to adopt and pay their adoption fee.  Visit the Coachella Valley Animal Campus at 72-050 Pet Land Place, Thousand Palms, (760) 343-3644,  For information on adopting a rescue pet, call Loving All Animals at (760) 834-7000,  Rescue animals bring love to your home this season and throughout the year.   

Keep your vet’s contact information at hand.  Contact Country Club Animal Clinic at (760) 776-7555.  There is only one 24-hr animal hospital in the Coachella Valley which is VCA, 46920 Jefferson, just north of Highway 111, Indio (760) 342-4712.  Contact the 24-hour Pet Poison Helpline at 800-213-6680.

I wish you and your pets a safe holiday season and a happy 2018!