During the holiday season, when we cook special meals and entertain guests who bring gifts, we need to be especially aware of the things in our home that may not be safe for our curious pets.

Some indoor plants or decorations are highly toxic to pets. For example, mistletoe, holly, amaryllis, daffodils, and lilies are toxic and you should use caution in how you display them. Keep them out of reach and only in areas where you can supervise your pet or you may want to consider not having them in the home at all. While these are not all of the plants toxic to pets, they are some of the more common ones used during the winter months.

Christmas trees can be mildly toxic to animals. The tree sap is an irritant and can cause vomiting and drooling. The needles of the tree are not easily ingested and can cause digestive problems. Most pets don’t ingest enough to be concerning, but it’s important to watch your pets around the tree.

Some common foods we associate with the holidays are also toxic to pets. According to PetMd.com, chocolate is highly toxic to dogs and is one of the most common toxicity issues seen by veterinarians.

Nutmeg, in large amounts, is toxic, so keep the spice out of reach. Cinnamon powder is also dangerous in large amounts, and cinnamon oil found in candles, soaps, wreaths and other decorative items can cause blisters in the mouth and should always be kept away from pets.

Garlic and onion both cause problems. While a small accidental bite for a dog probably won’t be an issue, cats are especially sensitive and can become quite sick from ingesting either.

Xylitol is a sugar substitute that is often used in sugar-free deserts, candy and chewing gum. It’s especially toxic to dogs. Xylitol is beginning to be used in other traditionally safe products, like peanut butter, so it’s important to check the labels of anything you’re feeding to your pets.

Then, once the cooking, baking and entertaining are over, keep in mind that common pain relievers such as Advil, Aleve and Motrin, and drugs containing acetaminophen such as cold medications and Tylenol, are harmful to pets and can result in severe gastric ulceration and acute kidney failure when ingested. This includes pain relieving creams.

The ASPCA has a comprehensive list of items which are poisonous to pets. You can find the list at www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control. They also have a 24 hour poison control hotline at (888) 426-4435 if you think your pet has ingested something and you don’t know what to do.

Knowledge equals better protection for your pets. Then you can relax and have a very happy holiday season.