The holidays should be merry and bright—for you, your friends, family and your pets. But there are many things about the holidays that can pose a danger to your pet’s health. Thankfully, through awareness and a few extra precautions, you can ensure the holidays are full of cheer for everyone.
Holiday Feasts & Treats
People often prepare large feasts as part of the festivities, but be careful not to leave food unattended around pets. Holiday meals and desserts are more fatty or sugary than everyday meals, and they often contain bones, onions or raisins—all things that can be detrimental to your pet’s health. Keep your pets out of the kitchen and the dining room, and secure lids on garbage cans so they don’t go rooting for table scraps afterward.
Food is also a big part of holiday gift giving. Remember that candy canes and chocolates are toxic to dogs and cats, so keep them out of reach. Save the cookies for Santa, although your dog can have one of the reindeer’s carrots, which is a healthy, safe snack.
Oh, (the Dangers of the) Christmas Tree!
Christmas trees themselves can be dangerous to your pets because of their pine needles. The sharp needles can damage your pet’s gastrointestinal tract if ingested, so vacuum or sweep regularly if you have a real Christmas tree. It’s also not uncommon for the tree to fall over—especially when a cat jumps in it! For this reason, it’s a good idea is to secure your tree to the wall or place it in a corner.
Christmas trees are often dangerously decorated. Select tree ornaments that are large enough so your dog or cat cannot swallow them, and be extra careful with glass bulbs and tinsel (or avoid them all together). Shards of breakable ornaments can injure your pet’s paws, mouth and digestive tract. If your pet swallows tinsel, it can cause severe vomiting and discomfort, often necessitating surgery.
Be careful about what’s under the Christmas tree, too. Wrapped gifts with sparkly ribbons and bows can peak your pet’s curiosity as they may mistake them for toys. But these can get wrapped around your pet’s intestines, leading to a veterinary emergency. Try to keep your pets away from the tree, especially when you are not home to supervise them.
As tempting as it may be, never give a pet as a Christmas gift. Adopting a pet is a very personal decision and a big responsibility (a 10 to 14 year commitment). It shouldn’t be a surprise.
Deck the Halls to Be Pet-friendly
Holidays decorating spreads from the Christmas tree to the mantle and beyond. When decorating with candles, put them on high areas and never leave a pet alone with a lit candle. You don’t want your pet burning themselves or knocking them over and starting a house fire, which can be easy when wagging tails are around.
Be cautious too with Christmas lights, taking care to unplug these when you’re not around. Put the cord out of reach or tape it to the wall to discourage your pet from chewing on it. This can cause burns or even a potentially lethal electrical shock.
Many people also decorate their homes for holidays with plants, which can be dangerous if pets eat them. Holly can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, while mistletoe can cause gastrointestinal and cardiovascular problems. Certain types of lilies can cause kidney failure in cats, and poinsettias are also toxic for pets. If you’re not confident you can keep your pets away from these plants, opt for artificial ones.
Holiday Travel and House Guests
Being surrounded by the people (and pets!) you love is the true meaning of Christmas. When entertaining during the holidays, be mindful of your pet, introducing them slowly to strangers and creating a safe space for them to escape the excitement when needed. Be especially careful when guests are entering and exiting the home so your four-legged family member doesn’t escape. Just to be safe, make sure cats and dogs are wearing collars with ID tags and that their microchip information is accurate.
If you’re traveling with your pet for the holidays, never leave them alone in a cold car and ensure you have everything they need to be comfortable. You’ll also want to bring along up-to-date medical records; your veterinarian is happy to help with this. Another option is to have your pet stay at a reputable boarding facility (get references) or have someone stay at your place while you’re gone.
Keep your holidays happy and your pets safe throughout the festive season. All the best from our animal hospital to you and yours!