Festive decorations and food can be found in abundance this time of year, but making your home a festive place can come with risks to your animal’s health.

“Particularly the decorations and bows and ties and stuff like that can become lodged, foreign objects that would unnecessarily require surgery to remove them,” says veterinarian Dr. Francis Arsenault.

Arsenault sees cases every year of animals ingesting things that are harmful. He says your pet will give pretty obvious clues that something is wrong. Cats, in particular, can’t seem to resist chewing on things like ribbon or tinsel.

“Sometimes it can be caught behind the tongue or in the esophagus. They will wretch and nothing will be produced. They will try to vomit, they certainly won't eat, they'll be in pain, they'll have a sore abdomen and they won't have bowel movements, they'll be quiet,” says Arsenault.

Practice manager Kellie Cormier says, if you suspect that your pet has gotten into something, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.

However, the best advice is to treat your pet as you would a child and make sure potentially-harmful foods and other decorations are kept out of reach.

“Puppies and kittens, this could be their first holiday season, they've never seen a lot of this stuff before. The ribbon is very enticing to kittens, so make sure you keep it away from your pets during the holidays,” says Cormier.

Festive food can also be a concern; dogs shouldn’t be fed bones from the turkey and a bite of chocolate can be fatal for pets. The theobromine is toxic to dogs and cats, causing severe gastroenteritis, but it is also a toxin to the heart, which can be fatal.

Pet owners must also be wary of holiday plants. Poinsettias have a bad reputation, but Arsenault says they’re not as bad as other plants popular around the festive season.

“They're very irritating to the mouth and so they'll salivate and it's irritating. They would have to eat a lot to be actually poisonous. Holly and mistletoe are more dangerous for toxicity reasons, they also cause irritations to the intestinal tract,” says Arsenault.

He says, with a little vigilance, all of these problems can be avoided over the holidays.