Locally based pet insurance company Petplan warns that certain holiday gifts can often cost much more than the sticker price. It turns out that during the holiday season, when pets get “into” holiday gifts, they end up at the ER because their vets close for holiday hours:

“Never has the phrase ‘the gift that keeps on giving’ been more ominous for pets,” jokes Petplan Veterinary Manager Elyse Donnarumma. “When you consider that the average claim paid for food poisoning is $585, or that foreign body removal surgery costs an average of $1,327, it is sobering to realize that those costs can easily double during the holidays.”

Holiday gifts that mean disaster

So, which gifts do pets typically get into and end up needing medical treatment because of it? According to Petplan, these are the top 10 holiday gifts that can unwrap disaster:

Bows and ribbons

The bows and ribbons used to decorate wrapped presents are problematic. Ribbons can easily become linear foreign bodies. Avoid an expensive surgery by tossing wrappings in the trash (whether you pitch the gift, too, is completely up to you).
Just ask Petplan policyholder Amanda Tollen, of Conshohocken, PA, about holiday ribbon. Her eight-year-old cat, Bella, racked up a $2,004.70 vet bill for a linear foreign body on December 27, 2015, when she got into the gift ribbon (see photo below):

“I am so happy we got pet insurance for Bella,” said Tollen, who was reimbursed over $1,800 thanks to her policy option. “It really saved us a ton of money during one of the most stressful times of the year for our budget. You never know what your pet is going to get into or what illness they will come down with. Having Bella Petplan protected was one of the best decisions we ever made.”

Fruitcake (and its modern-day equivalent, Panettone)

Ew. Why anyone would give fruitcake as a gift is beyond me. But, if you are a lucky recipient of fruitcake make sure you keep it out of your pet’s reach. Currants, raisins, and nuts are toxic to pets, and the spirits the cake is soaked in can be deadly to dogs and cats.

Holiday plants

A snack on Christmas cactus can upset tummies. Christmas lilies can cause kidney failure in kitties. And while poinsettias aren’t as toxic as previously thought, its sap can cause an unpleasant rash.

Scarves and mittens set

Another favorite item of dogs. Why they feel the need to eat them, we’ll never understand. Keep them out of reach or donate them to someone who is in need.

Lottery Tickets

You may have a 1 in 14 million chance of winning your gift, but your dog is more likely to suffer a foreign body ingestion if he eats the envelope and paper.


Extra people in the house can trigger stomach upset due to stress and all that coming and going can make it easier for pets to dart out the door and get hit by a car. Also, family members who just don’t know how to properly interact with a cat or dog and respect warning signs of discomfort run the risk of getting bit. Heed the growl!

Coffee/Hot Chocolate

Coffee mug gift sets are a staple of office holiday giving, but whether there’s beans or cocoa inside, be sure to keep them away from your pet’s paws. The caffeine in coffee and chocolate can trigger hyperactivity, elevated heart rate, seizures and even death.

Bath Products

Bath salts pose the very serious threat of salt poisoning. Bath salts often contain magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts) and sodium chloride (table salt), both of which can kill or permanently injure furry friends.

Boxed Chocolates

Chocolate contains theobromine, which can cause illness or even death in dogs and cats. If your dog eats chocolate, check out petMD’s chocolate toxicity meter and don’t hesitate to call the ASPCA poison line at (888) 426-4435.


You don’t want them, you hate getting them, and you’ll loathe them even more when you’re forking over upwards of $1,000 to have them removed from your pet’s intestine. Socks take Petplan’s top spot for the worst holiday gift, whether you’re on two legs or four.
For more info about Petplan and more pet safety tips, point your paws to www.gopetplan.com.

holiday gifts and pets infographic