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During the holidays, make sure you are also making it safe for your pets.

Every holiday season, we are brought together through food, community, and tradition. This holiday season, pet owners can show appreciation to their furry friends by protecting them from any hazards these festivities may bring.

Kit Darling, infection control coordinator at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), advises pet owners on how to best approach the holiday to keep their pets happy and healthy.

“Many of the foods we eat at (the holidays) are rich and can cause digestive problems, pancreatitis and may be poisonous to our pets,” Darling said. “Foods that can be harmful to our pets include turkey skin, dark meat, and bones, garlic, sage, grapes, raisins, bread dough, macadamia nuts, chocolate, alcohol, and the artificial sweetener xylitol.”

Darling also advised pet owners to be wary of which decorations they keep in their home. Some festive plants, including ferns, lilies, amaryllis, Baby’s Breath, and Sweet William are toxic to cats and dogs. Holly and mistletoe berries can also be harmful to pets.

In general, Darling said that animals should be kept away from table decorations.

If your pet does get their nose into the wrong dish or decoration, they may exhibit signs of poisoning including vomiting, diarrhea, depression, and behavioral changes. As always, prevention is key.

“Keep the food out of your pet’s reach to prevent table or counter surfing,” Darling said. “Put the trash out of the way where the pet can’t find it in a closed trash container that is behind a closed door or outside in a secure location. Be careful to keep plastic, strings, foil, and bags out of their reach.”

If a pet owner suspects that their animal has consumed a harmful substance, they should seek veterinary care as soon as possible. Darling recommended that pet owners save emergency numbers into their phones so they are prepared in case of emergency. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals animal poison control center hotline is 888-426-4435.

That there are certain things pets should not eat does not mean that owners shouldn’t treat their furry friend to a sampling of the feast; however, doing so in moderation and being careful about the type of food they share is key.

“Some foods that you can give your pet are small amounts of white meat turkey, raw or steamed green beans, carrots with no seasoning, pumpkin and apples,” Darling said. “A dog might enjoy a bully stick, dental chew, a Kong stuffed with their favorite treats or a food puzzle toy.”

Darling also advised owners to be aware of the hectic environment a holiday gathering might create, especially if guests are unfamiliar with the pet or bring children.

“Having a house full of guests may be stressful for your pet,” she said. “If your pet is shy or fearful, put the pet in a crate or a quiet room. Put your pet in a secure location when guests are arriving and leaving so the pet does not run out the door. Let your guests know not to feed your pets any food unless you have provided them with appropriate treats.”

Darling stressed that it might be difficult to keep an eye on your pet for the whole celebration, especially if you are hosting. As such, it is important to communicate guidelines on how to interact with a pet to your guests so they don’t unknowingly cross a line.

With the proper knowledge and communication, your animal-friendly holiday season will be safe and memorable for all of your loved ones.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the web at Suggestions for future topics may be directed to

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