All posts by Trisha Ip

Keeping the Holiday Celebrations Pet friendly

Dallas Xmas 2008 LRIt’s that time of year again –when you put reindeer ears and holiday sweaters on your dog. Wait, what – you don’t do that? But I bet you spend more time in the kitchen and love to decorate – maybe even with a real tree and live poinsettias.

Unfortunately the holidays can pose an increased risk in your pets’ health and safety. Bah humbug I know, but a few tips and tricks can keep your four-legged elves safe.

Holiday decorations are beautiful but can really be tempting for a mischievous pet, especially a cat, which we learned so well from Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation movie. If you’re too young to remember watch the clip but if you’re a cat lover you might not want to!

I recently consulted with my veterinarian, Dr. Anthony O’Sullivan of River City Veterinary Hospital, to make sure my fur babies celebrate in the holiday cheer with me. Ideally, without a visit to him.

Dr. O’Sullivan recalls performing at least three surgeries on cats due to ribbon ingestion. Cats are especially prone to chewing on things – ribbons and ornaments included. If you’re still using tinsel – please stop immediately – it’s highly toxic.

He once had a dog come in that was drooling and not eating. Turns out the dog ate an ornament with a prong spring-loaded clip. When it detached from the ornament, the prong became lodged in his throat. This is not they way anyone wants to spend Christmas.

Dr. O’Sullivan shared with me that cats aren’t as food motivated as dogs. Cats are a little more curious and mischievous and attracted to those shiny objects. Dogs want something tasty. So with dogs, we really need to worry about the holly, mistletoe, poinsettias and even pine needles. It’s important to clean up the loose needles and leaves, and when possible keep everything as far out of reach as possible.

If you notice your pet drooling excessively, gently check their mouth for a culprit, immediately inspect plants and ornaments and if it continues consult with your veterinarian. Other signs to watch out for are lethargy, diarrhea and vomiting which can indicate serious issues.

Now that the stockings are hung by the chimney with care, it’s time to get baking. If your fur-baby is anything like mine, they really like to help in the kitchen! Mine is especially good at cleaning the floor. Admit it, you let them do that once in a while too! If I drop a grape, onion or something else I know is toxic, it’s like a scene out of the Matrix – we are both moving in slow motion to get to it first! Here’s a good review of foods that are toxic for your dog.

If you don’t want to feel like a Grinch and you must share your spoon, here are a few tips to keep your little fur ball healthier and safer.

If you’re making mashed or sweet potatoes, set aside some of the cooked potato BEFORE you add any milk, butter, salt, or other spices. Those ingredients can be hard for your pet to digest. The same goes for veggies like green beans and carrots. You can share those raw, or after cooking, set some aside before adding any secret ingredients. As for meat, a little cooked skinless turkey is ok, but. Dr. O’Sullivan has seen many dogs fall ill from ham, bacon and other highly fatty and seasoned foods. He recommends avoiding all bones.

As for dessert, unfortunately Scrooge you must become. Raisins, nuts and chocolate – especially baking chocolate are very toxic. Alcohol is also a no-no. Now you finally have a valid reason to tell Grandma to leave her nut rum cake at home!

If you really want to make this holiday season special for your dog – make him his own treats. To make it even more festive, add a small amount of canned pumpkin (think teaspoonful). Here is a recipe that I like to use (I can’t recall its origins as I’ve had it for years).


  • 1 1/2 Cups Water
  • 1/2 Cup Oil  (I use canola)
  • 3 Tablespoons Peanut Butter
  • 2 Teaspoons Vanilla
  • 2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1/2 Cup Cornmeal
  • 1/2 Cup Oats


  • In large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal and oats
  • Stir in oil, peanut butter, vanilla and water
  • Knead until smooth, adding more flour or water as needed (I stir with a spoon until thick and then kneaded with my hands)
  • Roll out on a lightly floured surface
  • Cut with cookie cutters or involve the kids and make fun shapes (the thinner they are the faster they cook and burn, make sure they have a little thickness)
  • Bake on greased cookie sheet at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until browned

Dr. O’Sullivan left me with some final words of wisdom, “everything in moderation.” I know he was only talking about what I share with my pets because he hasn’t had my mom’s chocolate pudding pie!

Big thanks to contributing author Trisha Ip