Holiday Pet Safety

Tis the season to be jolly! It is also the season to be more diligent at keeping our pets safe and healthy over the holidays. With holiday parties, trees, tinsel, candles and presents, our pets are at a greater risk to get into trouble. Here are a few holiday safety tips to keep them safe.

  1. The tree: With pets in the house, it is safest to place the tree in the corner. This will make it easier to anchor the top of the tree so climbing cats don't knock it over. Also, use a tree stand that is one size bigger than the tree for added support and balance. Covering the lower branches with aluminum foil or hanging small metal or plastic containers with noisy coins inside may help keep cats and small dogs out of the tree. For pets (and owners) with allergies, consider an artificial tree to decrease allergens and mold spores being brought into a warm house.
  2. The water: If you have pets, do not use fertilizer or aspirin in the tree water. Both can be toxic to pets if they drink it. Plain water in the stand reservoir can also grow bacteria that may make your pet sick. After watering the tree, cover the opening of the reservoir with aluminum foil to keep pets from access to the water.
  3. Tinsel and ornaments: Tinsel can add significant sparkle to a tree, but can be dangerous for pets, especially cats. If ingested it can cause a blockage requiring surgery. If you must use tinsel keep it up high and out of reach. Consider using metallic figurine garland or beads lower down on the tree. These can be safer, but are not without some risk. Keep ornaments out of reach, especially small ones, as these can cause an obstruction if swallowed. Glass ornaments can fall and break causing a swallowing hazard or cut paws, so be certain they are tightly attached to the tree. If ornaments are used on the lower part of the tree, use ones made of plastic, paper or cloth and use long wire hooks that can be wrapped around the branches so ornaments cannot easily fall off or be pulled off by your pet. Edible garlands of popcorn and cranberries should be placed up high and out of reach.
  4. Holiday plants: Holiday plants should be kept up and out of reach. Many of them, such as Mistletoe, Poinsettias, Amaryllis, Balsam, Cedar and lilies can be poisonous. Ingesting some of these can cause vomiting and diarrhea, whereas ingesting lilies can cause kidney failure. For a full list of toxic plants see the ASPCA poison control website at Also, many Styrofoam or plastic decorations on stick picks in flower arrangements can cause a blockage if eaten
  5. Candles: Keep candles high and, if possible, protected by a glass chimney to prevent accidental burns or singed hair. Many of the new battery operated, imitation candles and votive candles are safer and can be as warming to the decor as the real thing.
  6. Wires: Be certain to tape down all wires and electrical cords to keep pets from accidently biting them and being injured or electrocuted.
  7. Don't feed the pets: If you have guests for the holidays, ask them not to feed your pets, especially the children. If you serve hors d’oeuvres, make sure they are not at a level that your pet can easily reach. If you put out a fruit platter, grapes can be toxic to dogs so keep it up high and out of reach. You might want to consider feeding your pet ahead of time or leaving some dry food out as a snack. Just as you enjoy the aroma of the turkey or ham roasting, so do your pets. Many people cannot resist the sad, big, brown puppy dog eyes. However, some pets cannot handle diet changes or the spicy and fatty holiday foods that can lead to intestinal upset, vomiting, diarrhea or potentially life-threatening pancreatitis. Some foods, such as stuffing, may contain onions or raisins which can be toxic to pets. Make sure when you sit down for your meal that anything left on the stove or counters is covered so counter surfers cannot help themselves.
  8. Sweets and desserts: Keep pets away from chocolate and candy.Chocolate contains theobromine which can cause agitation, tremors and seizures. Sugar-free candy and sweets can contain xylitol. Xylitol ingestion can cause low blood sugar and seizures in dogs. Holiday breads can have raisins and currants (some currants are small black grapes), which can be toxic and cause kidney failure in dogs.
  9. Alcohol: Be careful not to leave drinks unattended. Holiday drinks, especially eggnog (with or without rum), can be tempting to pets. Too much alcohol, especially in small pets, can cause weakness, coma, and death.
  10. Exercise: During the business of preparing for guests, normal pet routines may get set on the back burner. Try to maintain normal daily routines to help keep your pet calm and relaxed. Exercise your dog early in the day so they are tired when guests arrive.
  11. Take out the trash: Dispose of turkey bones and skin properly and securely by getting them out of the house. Pets that get into the turkey carcass can swallow bones that may cause intestinal upset, blockage or perforation and could potentially require emergency surgery. Fatty turkey skin can cause vomiting, diarrhea and or pancreatitis.
  12. Keep pets and people safe: Holidays can be busy and noisy times. While this can be fun for us, many pets unaccustomed to this change in their routine can become nervous and stressed. Be aware of how your pet is feeling during the day. If they seem at all stressed or anxious (cowering, hiding, ears down or tail between their legs), move them to a separate, quiet room.
  13. Pets and kids: For pets that are not accustomed to children, consider keeping them confined to a separate room. Young children, especially if they are not used to being around pets, can be injured by not understanding a pet’s warning signs or behavior or by tugging and pulling at their hair, ears, and tail.
  14. Potpourri: Liquid potpourri can contain essential oils and detergents that can cause severe damage to the mouth, eyes, and skin. So keep them covered and out of reach.
  15. Presents: When wrapping presents or unwrapping presents, remember that string and ribbon can be tempting to dogs and especially to cats. If ingested they can cause a blockage or a linear foreign body that can cut through the intestine very quickly. String, bows and ribbons on presents under the tree can also be tempting. To keep pets safe, consider using an expandable gate or an X-pen around the tree until Christmas morning. If your friends bring gifts for under the tree, be certain to ask if any of the gifts contain food that your pet may detect and get into.

Have and Happy and Safe Holiday Season!

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