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Have a Bright and Merry Holiday Season: Protect Your Pet From Holiday Hazards

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At Tej Dhaliwal Veterinary Group, we’re celebrating the holidays all month long.

Want a fun activity to do with your pet during the holiday season? Stop by South Etobicoke Animal Hospital on Friday, December 20, from 4 pm to 6 pm with your dog or cat to get a memorable pet photo with Santa!

And while you’re getting ready for the holidays and enjoying the festivities with family and friends, here are some potential pet hazards to keep in mind so you can keep the holidays fun and joyful.


Certain human foods can be dangerous—even deadly—for pets. Avoid feeding your pet any of these items:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Anything with xylitol (a sugar substitute found in some mints and other candy, nut butters, and baked goods)
  • Bones (raw or cooked, bones just aren’t worth letting pets chew on—they can break teeth, cut a pet’s mouth and tongue, get stuck in the throat, and even pierce the esophagus or intestine, which can be life-threatening)
  • Chocolate (of any kind, although the darker the chocolate, the greater the toxicity)
  • Fatty or salty foods (such as fat trimmings, turkey skin, bacon, or ham)
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Onions and garlic
  • Raw dough
  • Turkey or other meat that’s been seasoned (most turkey eaten around the holidays has been brined and/or contains butter and seasoning; a small amount of plain turkey with no butter, salt, pepper, or other seasoning is usually fine as an occasional treat for most dogs and cats—ask us if it’s OK to feed to your pet)


Remember that even the most normally well-behaved dogs and cats may not wait for an invitation to snatch up a tasty-looking treat from a countertop or off a guest’s plate during holiday gatherings. Warn guests to keep their plates out of your pet’s reach, and consider covering snacks and other food if it’s sitting out.

Ribbon, Tinsel, Twine, and Yarn

Long, thin objects like tinsel, ribbon, yarn, and even the twine used to truss a turkey for a holiday feast can pose serious, potentially life-threatening issues if a dog or cat swallows them. These “linear foreign objects” can get stuck in the stomach, become balled up in the intestine and cause a blockage, or even tear or saw through the intestine. 

Don’t wait! Contact us if your pet is vomiting, has abdominal pain or diarrhea, or if you know your pet has swallowed a linear foreign object. This is a serious, potentially life-threatening situation.

Holiday Plants

Although plants play a big part in the holiday season, some festive flowers and greenery may be better left out of your holiday decorating—or at least far out of your pet’s reach. The following plants are toxic to both dogs and cats:

  • Amaryllis bulbs (the flowers and leaves are less toxic)
  • Holly berries and leaves
  • Lilies
  • Nandina berries (nandina is also known as heavenly or sacred bamboo)
  • Pine (often used for Christmas trees and other decorations)

On the other hand, some holiday plants tend to be less of a concern:

  • Poinsettias aren’t actually very toxic to dogs and cats. The sap can cause drooling, diarrhea, and vomiting, but these flowers generally don’t pose a more serious danger to pets.
  • Mistletoe typically only causes similar mild digestive issues, although ingesting large amounts can cause much more serious problems in pets (including death). To be safe, stick to a single sprig, and make sure it doesn’t fall on the floor, where a curious pet might consume it.
  • Christmas cactus also shouldn’t cause more than mild digestive issues.

Even though some common holiday plants may not pose as much of a risk, it’s always a good idea to restrict your pet’s access to these plants.

If you think your pet has consumed something toxic, call us immediately. You can also call the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661 or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 (a fee will be charged).

Candles, Potpourri, and Essential Oils

Lit candles, simmering potpourri, and misting essential oils from a diffuser can all make homes smell wonderful, but you may want to think twice before using them if you have a pet in your house:

  • Candles can cause burns or worse if they get knocked over by an excited pet’s tail.
  • Potpourri may smell inviting enough to lick up, which can cause burns and poison your pet.
  • Some essential oils (tea tree in particular) can be dangerous for pets if they ingest or walk through concentrated forms. Although an oil diffuser isn’t likely to cause a problem for most pets, it can become dangerous if the oil is spilled or if your pet has any breathing difficulties.

At the least, keep these out of reach of your pet, unplug them when you leave the house, and consider limiting their use or using electric candles and plug-in diffusers instead.

Other Decorations

Unfortunately, a number of common holiday decorations can also put pets at risk:

  • Christmas trees should be secured to prevent pets from knocking them over during play or if they try to jump or climb on the branches.
  • Needles from trees, wreaths, and other greenery can irritate pets’ mouths and stomachs, and needles can potentially puncture the intestine or cause a blockage.
  • Water in tree stands can be toxic to pets, especially if it contains additives/preservatives.
  • Electric lights can burn or electrocute pets if they chew the cord.
  • Ornaments can cause problems if they break or are swallowed. If you display breakable ornaments, keep them toward the top of the tree or in an area your pet can’t access. Also be attentive with any ornaments that are made from food materials, contain small pieces your pet could choke on, or are soft (especially if your pet tends to think all soft toys are for him or her).

Be especially careful and attentive with holiday decorations if you have a puppy or kitten in the house and you don’t yet know what your new pet is most curious about or likes to chew on.

Happy Holidays

Don’t hesitate to ask us if you have any questions or concerns about pet holiday safety, and contact us right away if your pet got into anything that could be dangerous. At Tej Dhaliwal Veterinary Group, we want to make sure your pet stays safe and gets to enjoy the holiday season too!

Additional Reading

All accessed December 5, 2019.

Senior Wellness Month: The Importance of Preventive Care and Early Disease Testing in Senior Pets

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November is Senior Wellness Month at Tej Dhaliwal Veterinary Group, so we’re highlighting preventive care and testing for older pets. All throughout the month, we’re also offering discounted blood work for senior pets.

Call us to schedule your pet’s Senior Wellness Exam today, and read on to learn more about why these exams are essential for your senior pet.

When Is My Pet Considered a Senior?

Thanks to good veterinary and at-home care, many pets today are living into their teens and even early 20s (for cats). Although senior status varies by pet, generally:

  • Most dogs are considered seniors around 7 to 8 years of age.
  • Large-breed dogs may be considered seniors at 5 or 6.
  • Most cats become seniors starting somewhere between 7 and 11.

Changes in Senior Pets

Although some pets let us know when they aren’t feeling well, many pets (cats especially) hide signs of disease and other health issues. Older pets also tend to be at higher risk for certain illnesses. That’s why as pets age, regular veterinary visits and screening tests for early disease are crucial for helping to catch any medical conditions as soon as possible. And vaccines and parasite preventives remain as important as ever for helping to keep your pet protected against preventable diseases.

As your pet moves into his or her senior years, you may notice some common signs of aging, such as decreased hearing and vision, changes in how much your pet sleeps, and whitening of the fur, especially on the face.

Other changes may be less obvious, particularly if your pet hides signs that anything is wrong. And because pets age faster than people, their health condition can change faster as well. That’s why your veterinarian needs to see your pet more often as he or she gets older.

Regular senior wellness exams, testing for early disease, and vaccinations all play an important role in helping to keep your pet as healthy as possible as he or she ages.

Common Diseases in Older Dogs and Cats

Some common diseases and conditions that may affect senior pets include:

  • Arthritis—This chronic, painful joint disease affects both dogs and cats, but when it’s diagnosed early, it can be managed more effectively, slowing the disease, minimizing pain, and maximizing pets’ mobility.
  • Cancer—Screening tests are essential for helping to catch cancer as early as possible. We have more treatment options than ever before for enhancing quality of life for pets with cancer.
  • Diabetes—Drinking and urinating more frequently are classic symptoms of diabetes. It’s important to catch and control this disease early.
  • Heart disease—Older pets are prone to developing heart problems, and high blood pressure (hypertension) is also common in these pets. A special diet and medications can help us manage heart disease and keep senior pets enjoying life.
  • Hyperthyroidism/Hypothyroidism—These thyroid problems affect dogs and cats differently. Older cats tend to have hyperthyroidism, which speeds up their metabolism, making it hard for them to keep weight on, despite being hungry and eating a lot. Older dogs, on the other hand, tend to have hypothyroidism, which slows down their metabolism and makes them gain weight. Dogs with this condition also tend to be tired and have hair loss and skin problems. We have options that can help these pets, but the earlier we catch them, the better. Untreated, these thyroid issues can cause other serious diseases.
  • Kidney disease/urinary tract disease—Drinking and urinating more can also be signs of kidney trouble, but these symptoms aren’t always obvious, and kidney disease isn’t curable. However, if the disease is diagnosed early, your veterinarian can recommend a special diet to help slow down the disease, as well as other management options to help pets feel better.
  • Liver disease—Depending on the type of liver disease, pets may only have vague symptoms or not show any obvious signs until the disease is advanced, so early detection and treatment are crucial. Besides medications, we may also prescribe a special diet to help manage liver disease in some pets.

Testing for Early Disease in Pets

Routine lab work, including blood and urine tests, can help us determine whether your pet has any diseases we need to treat. And early detection means we can start treating your pet sooner, rather than waiting until a disease has advanced and may be harder to manage.

If a disease is detected early, your pet may have more options for care and maintain a higher quality of life.

Certain diseases show similar signs, so determining the cause of your pet’s symptoms is essential. Testing plays a big role in helping us figure out what’s wrong and how to properly treat your pet.

Ideally, we like to begin screening pets at 7 years of age or earlier, so we can get a baseline of what’s normal for your individual pet.

Vaccines for Senior Pets

At Tej Dhaliwal Veterinary Group, we recommend keeping pets current on vaccinations, as recommended by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA). At your pet’s wellness exam, we’ll discuss which vaccines are appropriate for your individual senior pet.

Stay Proactive!

If you notice that your pet is behaving differently or if your pet just seems off, contact us at Tej Dhaliwal Veterinary Group right away. When possible, however, we want to catch anything that isn’t normal as early as possible. Call us to schedule your pet’s senior wellness exam today!

Additional Reading


All accessed November 5, 2019.