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The 10 most harmful holiday dog dangers

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

Watch out! These common holiday items can be harmful to your dog

Though the holiday season is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, it can mean danger to your favorite furry friends. We've rounded up things that you have in the house around the holidays that can make your dog sick.

Watch out! These common holiday items can be harmful to your dog

1. Chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate

Whether it's a gift of gourmet chocolates or yet another batch of brownies or chocolate chip cookies, chances are you have lots of chocolate laying in wait for your dog to chomp down quicker than you can say "Merry Christmas." Chocolate is teeming with theobromine, an alkaloid that is toxic to dogs. It can cause seizures and even death. Symptoms that your pup pigged out on chocolate include vomiting, diarrhea, irregular heartbeat and muscle tremors.

2. Holiday lattes and other coffee treats

Your coffee addiction may get kicked into overdrive during the jam-packed holiday season, but caffeine is a dangerous no-no for your pooch. The stimulant can cause seizures, abnormal heartbeat and even death. Specialty coffee drinks topped with whipped cream are particularly tempting to your canines, so keep them up out of reach. Be sure your chocolate-covered coffee beans are also put high up on a shelf.

3. Alcohol

Though you may not intentionally pour your dogs a bowl of wine (or spiked eggnog), your pawed pals may take the liberty of lapping out of any glass they can get their tongues in. Wine, beer and hard liquor can cause seizures, respiratory failure, decrease in blood sugar, low blood pressure and a drop in body temperature. Keep alcoholic beverages away from your pets.

4. Unbaked dough

Did you know that the bowl of rising dough on the counter can mean death for your dog? Unbaked bread dough can expand in your pup's stomach and cause bloat or a twisted stomach. Signs of a twisted stomach include vomiting, retching, elevated heart rate, weakness and a distended stomach. Another danger in unbaked bread dough is the yeast, which will convert into alcohol in your dog's stomach. The alcohol is quickly absorbed into your dog's bloodstream and can result in alcohol poisoning. If your dog eats dough, get it to a vet immediately.

5. Sugar-free treats

Well-meaning friends who know you're counting calories may give you sugar-free goodies containing xylitol (a lower-calorie sugar substitute) this holiday season, but there isn't anything sweet about the toxic effects xylitol has on dogs. This sugar alcohol causes a drastic drop in blood sugar and can lead to liver damage. Signs of xylitol toxicity, including vomiting and lethargy, occur quickly after ingestion and can be fatal.

6. Ibuprofen or other over-the-counter medications

Whether you tend to get holiday stress headaches or pulled a few muscles putting up the Christmas lights, you may find yourself relying on Ibuprofen or other pain relievers this time of year. These non-prescription medications can cause liver and kidney damage, severe ulcers, anemia and even death. Keep all over-the-counter and prescription medications out of reach of your pawed pals.

7. Macadamia nuts

Are macadamia nuts found aplenty on your holiday season treat menu? These indulgent nuts can prove toxic to your dog. Symptoms of toxicity, which typically occur within 12 hours of ingestion, include depression, weakness, tremors, vomiting and pale gums.

8. Turkey bones and table food scraps

Your pup may whimper and whine for a table treat during the holiday dinner or simply sneak in the kitchen while you're opening gifts and gorge on any food it can get its jaws on. Bones from poultry, fish, pork and even beef can cause choking or splinter in your dog's digestive tract. Fatty table scraps or leftovers can lead to pancreatitis and high-sodium fare can cause your dog to drink too much water and get bloat or twisted stomach. Human food is best kept for humans.

9. Pretty, shiny decorations everywhere

Dogs may not appreciate the beauty of holiday decor, but they may see it as new chewy opportunities. If your dog has an affinity for chewing, keep wreaths, candles, ornaments, strings of lights and other festive accessories out of its reach.

10. Poisonous holiday plants

Poinsettias have long suffered a bad rap as a toxic plant for dogs, but it turns out that mistletoe is most deserving of doggie disdain. Small amounts of mistletoe can cause mild digestive upset, but large amounts can cause vomiting, diarrhea, abnormal heart rate, seizures, low blood pressure, ataxia, collapse and even death. Poinsettias and holly aren't lethal like mistletoe, but can cause digestive distress when ingested. If your dog digs into the holiday foliage, call your vet for treatment recommendations.

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