Tales of Christmases Past

By: Amanda Poldoski, DVM
Staff Veterinarian at Pet Poison Helpline®

Holiday Christmas Dog and TreeHappy Holidays from Pet Poison Helpline®!

This is a very busy time of year for us at Pet Poison Helpline®.  Christmas Eve is notoriously our busiest day of the year and is swiftly approaching!  Reflecting on Christmases past in the call center there are certain scenarios that we hear about time and again:

Chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate:

You may be surprised to hear that we receive more calls about pets ingesting chocolate around Christmas than any other holiday!  Last year from December 24th – 25th about 41% of cases involved chocolate compared to 29% around Valentine’s Day and about 20% around Halloween!  The extra hustle and bustle of the holiday season combined with bowls of chocolates around the house; extra baking for parties and gatherings; and decadent treats being wrapped and left under the tree seems to contribute to our furry friends indulging in more chocolate than usual.  We’ve heard it many times…. “We just got back from church and now the bowl of Hershey Kisses we left on the table is empty!”  “My Labrador ate the pound of fudge that was wrapped and under the tree!  I didn’t think he’d be able to smell it!”  (Yup, they can smell it).

The dreaded fruitcake:

Ah, fruitcake….loved by some, feared by many.  These bricks can pack a major toxic punch if ingested by our pets!  Chock-full of dried fruits they often contain raisins and/or currants which can cause kidney failure in dogs (and possibly cats). If soaked in rum there is also risk for alcohol toxicity!  One of our own staff member’s dogs managed to eat such a cake one year.  It can happen to the best of us!

Grandma’s baggie of assorted medications:

Okay, so it doesn’t have to be just Grandma’s medication but this is a story we hear every day.  In preparation for their travels folks might mix multiple medications into a single baggie without knowing the amount that was packed.  Sometimes the name and dose of the medications are unknown as well (eek!). If a pet in the home gets in to this baggie it can spell all sorts of trouble.  And with many unknowns it can be a very difficult situation for us or your veterinarian to assess as well.  It is always best to keep medications in their original bottles when possible. If you take multiple medications, consider keeping a list in your purse, wallet, or on your mobile device with the names and dosages for reference if needed. Filling seven-day pill containers with known amount of pills can be helpful, but be sure to keep these out of reach of pets as well!

If you suspect your pet has been exposed to a potential toxin, contact your veterinarian or call Pet Poison Helpline® right away at 1-800-213-6680.


Have a safe and very happy holiday season!