Keeping Your Pets Safe at the Holidays – Plants & more

Scarlett by Marlana Smith

Recently we had a trauma in our household, our dogs ate chocolate. I had come home from a speaking event with four small brownies in one of the boxes of supplies I was carrying, as I arrived home I received one call after another, the first announcing the birth of my great grandnephew, the other a friend in need – so I was occupied with thoughts other than my packages. My son was very helpful, carrying things in for me but he did not know that there were brownies in my carrying case. Not good.

Hours later, I realized that I didn’t know where my son had put the box with the brownies; unfortunately they were placed on the ground which gave easy access to our Lhasa Apso and Yorkshire Terrier. Chocolate is a well-known poison to dogs, so off to the Emergency Veterinarian we went; because of course by this time it was 10pm on a Sunday night. I’m happy to say that the dogs are fine, but my son and I didn’t fare as well. We didn’t sleep much that night and it cost an arm and a leg!

The culprits after their ordeal

This incident made me realize that a blog post about items that are toxic to animals would be perfect for this time of the year. Many of the plants that are holiday gifts are toxic to both dogs and cats, and with some holiday food treat in the mix as well, it is important that you keep things safe for your furry family members.

Here is a(n incomplete) list of things to keep out of reach of your animals.


  • Amaryllis
  • Cyclamen
  • Kalanchoe
  • Mistletoe
  • Paper White Bulbs
  • Poinsettia
  • Flower arrangements that contain Lilies, Holly, most Ferns, Baby’s Breath, and Bird of Paradise to name a few.
  • Items ON your Christmas tree such as tinsel, garlands, and small ornaments… including their hangers.

Now for the foods:

  • Hanukkah Gelt (chocolate coins)
  • Garlic (especially dried)
  • Onion (ditto)
  • Raisins, currants, raisins… think fruitcake
  • Boxes of chocolate candy left on dog face level tables
  • Coffee (chocolate covered espresso beans are especially lovely)
  • Nicotine — cigarettes and cigarette butts
  • Sugarless gum or mints (xylitol)

For a complete list please check out or your veterinarian.

Churchill by Marlana Smith

There are also plenty of plants for your garden that can be a hazard to dogs and especially cats. Sago palms, Hellebores, Angel’s Trumpet, Lantana, Lilies, Foxglove, Oleander, Hemlock, Nightshades, Nicotiana, Primrose, Daffodils, Aloes, Azaleas and many more plants can cause harm and even death to your pets. This means that it is very important to make sure that when you are designing your garden, you know what you are planting or you hire someone that does. One of my highest priorities is to make sure that your family, including both pets and children, are safe in their new sanctuary. Make sure that when you interview your landscape professional that you ask lots of questions to assess their knowledge of plant material as it relates to your furry friends!

For more about my designs, please visit my website




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