Green wreath of pine with a sign that says Happy Holidays.

Fall and winter holidays can bring a lot of excitement and celebration, and you may want to include your favorite dog in some of the fun.

But certain holiday items are dangerous, toxic, or harmful to dogs, especially curious and adventurous breeds such as Labrador Retrievers. 

In addition to causing physical harm and stress to your dog, these items can cause expensive veterinary bills or even require emergency treatment, something no one wants to add to their Christmas list!

So how do you keep your dog safe during the holiday season? 

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Make sure you’re aware of these 7 top items that are holidays dangers for dogs and keep them out of reach, out of sniffing space, or out of your home entirely!

1. Bones

Bones of all different kinds can pose a huge risk to dogs at all times of the year, but especially during the holidays. Sometimes well-intentioned dog lovers will try to share their turkey bones or steak bones (such as those leftover from a tasty Christmas prime rib) with their furry friends, not being fully aware of the dangers they can pose.

Steak on a skillet.

Bones can cause choking, or splinter and lodge in the digestive system of a Labrador Retriever, and may need emergency removal by your veterinarian. Watch your trash cans carefully and make sure you remove any trash containing bones before curious Labradors follow their noses and go digging around in there.

2. Chocolate

Though chocolate happens to be a fantastic color for Labrador Retrievers, chocolate as a food item is toxic to dogs and causes significant harm. According to our friends at VCA, chocolate contains theobromine, which dogs are unable to process. The darker the chocolate, the higher the amount of theobromine, and the greater the risk to your dog. 

If you have a mischievous Labrador who’s prone to devouring stockings and other holiday items (which we’ve personally experienced), make sure you hang items up higher than your adventurous Lab can reach, or keep them behind a closed door.

Bar of dark chocolate

3. Xylitol

One of the biggest holiday dangers for dogs is one that catches many people by surprise… xylitol is incredibly dangerous for dogs. It can be found in holiday treats, candy, gum, and other products often marketed as sugarless.

Recently a friend received a gift that had a collection of holiday treats inside, including gum that contained the ingredient xylitol. Her curious Poodle got into the unwrapped package and had to be rushed to the emergency after-hours veterinary clinic, where they were fortunately able to save him.

Because even small amounts of xylitol can kill your dog, and we have very curious Labradors around here, we don’t allow any xylitol products around them.

4. Alcohol

Beer, wine, and other alcoholic drinks are not good for dogs and can cause digestive and other health issues. Do not give your dog treats from friends or family that contain alcohol in them either, and watch out for those unattended drinks leftover on the table after finishing a holiday meal.

Two champagne glasses with holiday ornaments hanging.

5. Plants: Poinsettias, Lilies, Holly & Mistletoe

Many holiday plants can cause sickness and health problems in dogs if they are digested or chewed. Poinsettias are a common plant often displayed during December for the Christmas season. Other popular holiday plants are holly, lilies, and mistletoe, which can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and other illness in your dog. 

Labradors are intelligent and curious dogs, and if you have new or interesting plants that you display during the holidays, be careful to keep them out of where your dogs can bite or chew on them. This is also important if you’re leaving your dog home alone when you’re out, in order to avoid returning to discover a dog has eaten one of your toxic plants. 

Also, if you’re traveling during the holidays and have an in-home dog sitter caring for your dog, make sure they are aware of any hazardous plants or remove them completely when you’re not able to supervise your dog.

Red poinsettia plant.

6. Onions (and Garlic)

A huge part of winter celebrations is enjoying delicious holiday food. Onions and garlic are both toxic to dogs and cause sickness. Check the ingredients of any items you’re making or buying to be sure that you don’t accidentally give anything containing onions or garlic to your dog. 

Make sure that you are careful disposing of them in your kitchen trash and that you secure all trash cans to keep the contents away from curious Labrador Retrievers who may go hunting for goodies after the party’s over. 

(Other foods in your kitchen can also be toxic to pets. Read More: Why Avocados Are Also Dangerous for Dogs)

7. Ornaments & Decorations

Sweet-smelling candles or tree ornaments in the shape of favorite dog items (such as those that look like a ball!) can be very appealing to your dog. The smell and fragrance of a natural Christmas tree can also be very tantalizing to a Labrador.

Keep an eye on glass or breakable ornaments, table decorations, long light strings, packages with bows, and those super-cute homemade ornaments your kids might have made in school! You might find your Labrador leaves them alone for a long time, only to be surprised on Christmas morning when something sentimental is devoured.

Christmas tree with a red ball ornament hanging.

Who to Contact For Help

No matter how careful you are, it’s a good idea for pet families to keep the ASPCA’s Pet Poison Control Number handy in case you ever need it: (888) 426-4435.

Always call your veterinarian if you have questions about something your dog might have eaten or consumed, or if your dog is acting strangely or exhibiting signs of being sick.

Even if it’s after-hours or on a holiday, go with your vet’s expertise before trying to solve the problem on your own. Happy Holidays to you and your Labrador!

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