5 Holiday Toxins Your Dog Should Avoid

Veterinarian Vanessa Yeager discusses the top 5 most common dangers to your dog this holiday season. Learn about the deadly side effects of ingesting raisins, chocolate, antifreeze, and other harmful substances.

QDT Editor
4-minute read

Holiday Toxin #4: Antifreeze

This is an odd, but a quite commonly reported toxicity during the winter season when people top off the antifreeze levels in their vehicles.

Imagine you're innocently refilling the antifreeze container in your car when suddenly Grandma calls on the phone or the neighbor drops by with Christmas cookies and you forget to close the top to the antifreeze jug as you hurry over to answer the phone or get the door.

The active ingredient in antifreeze is a substance called ethylene glycol. Ethylene glycol damages doggie kidneys by acting as a magnet for calcium. As it enters the blood stream, calcium latches on to it and eventually (through a complex system of biochemical processes) creates calcium oxalate crystals, which become lodged in the kidneys. This process happens very quickly, in just a matter of hours.

Why in the world would a dog be interested in antifreeze? Aside from some dogs just being naturally curious, ethylene glycol actually has a sweet taste to it (although I’ve never sampled some myself), making it attractive to any dog, nosey or not.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, even a small amount of ethylene glycol consumed can cause real damage. Your vet will confirm ethylene glycol toxicity by taking a sample of your dog’s urine and looking for the presence of crystals under a microscope.

Holiday Toxin #5: Electrocution

Didn’t see this coming did you?

While this is not exactly a toxin per se, with all the festive lights aglow, the threat of electrocution always looms during the holiday season. A swift chomp through the Christmas tree lights can result in serious burns around the tongue, lips, and gums, not to mention an electric shock that can be fatal.

So what should you do if your pet has been exposed to any of the 5 dangers above? Please refrain from trying to treat your pet at home on your own and call your local veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center hotline. It's available 24 hours a day 7 days a week at 888-426-4435. There is a $65 consultation fee for the call. 

Have a great week, a safe happy holiday with your pet, and be sure to give that four-legged friend of yours a big hug for me.


Vanessa Yeager holds a Masters in public health and will graduate from the University of Illinois as a doctor in veterinary medicine in May 2015. She has worked in a variety of veterinary practices, with both small and large animals. Through her experiences she has found a passion for health communication in the veterinary field as well as educating owners on animal health and wellness. 

Dog with cookiesSanta with puppy, and raisins images courtesy of Shutterstock. .