The holidays are a busy and exciting time, but your pets may not always be the first thing on your mind during this season. While many pets are adaptable to the holidays and can find them exciting, just like you do, there are some holiday hazards you will want to look out for to make this season safe and fun for everyone.
From Christmas trees to holiday baking, your house will be transformed from a normal environment to one filled with sights, sounds, and smells that will have your dog or cat ready to investigate. You can't blame them for being curious, but you can take the right steps to make sure they don't get into anything that could lead to a vet visit over the holidays.
This article will explore the common holiday dangers around your home and offer Christmas holiday pet safety tips for pets to keep your furry family members safe and merry this holiday season.
1. Toxic Seasonal Plants
Are poinsettias poisonous to dogs? Is mistletoe poisonous to cats? Most of us love to decorate with festive holiday plants, but unfortunately, most popular seasonal plants are off-limits to dogs and cats and are some of the biggest holiday dangers for pets.
Even non-toxic plants can cause major gastrointestinal problems if ingested.
Here are some of the most common poisonous holiday plants for pets:
- Poinsettias (these are the least toxic plant on this list. They are low in toxicity but can irritate the stomach and mouth, resulting in vomiting)
If pet safety is your priority (and it should be!), it may be wise to just skip out on the holiday plants altogether and go with more pet-friendly Christmas decorations. For more info on which plants are safe to keep around your pets, check out 50 Dangerous Plants for Dogs.
2. Fires and Candles Don't Mix Well With Pets
Warm fireplaces and the glow of candles evoke strong holiday memories. However, roasting chestnuts over an open fire can be a serious risk for playful and curious pets. Fortunately, you can still enjoy the ambiance of fires and candles while staying mindful of pet safety. Your holiday home for pets can be both lovely and safe.
Keep candles out of reach where a pet cannot knock them over or brush past. Always use a secure fireplace screen. Snuff out candles and douse fireplace embers completely before leaving your pet unattended with them.
3. Dangerous Decorations
Most decorations look like toys to a curious pet and should be used cautiously and supervised. Tinsels and other shiny, stringy ornaments should be watched closely or avoided entirely if you have a cat. It can cause internal blockages if ingested.
Pets can also get tangled in decorations and have to potential to strangle or hurt them. Since most ornaments are fragile and breakable, your playful kitten or curious pooch could easily knock them down, leaving sharp shards on the floor.
Small Decorations Look Like Toys
Be wary of small decorations that can be swallowed completely, especially any edible ornament such as popcorn strings or yeast dough ornaments. Choose durable plastic, wood, or metal ornaments over glass ornaments that can be broken and leave shards.
Other decorations like artificial spray-on snow is very toxic for pets and shouldn't be used anywhere they can reach it.
Keep your pets occupied with a favourite treat or a new toy when decorating. This can help curb your pet's overwhelming desire to chase or bat at decorations while you are shuffling them around the house.
Skip the Tinsel
One of the biggest holiday dangers for pets, especially for cats, is ribbon and tinsel. Cats love the feeling of chewing these items. However, if they get ingested, these items can get caught in their intestines, causing an intestinal blockage. Suddenly, the fun holiday decoration can lead to emergency surgery! That’s no way to spend the holidays for you or your favourite feline friend.
If you know your cat is likely to eat these things, try to avoid decorating with them, or at the very least, decorate them in spots your cat is unlikely to get into.
4. Gifts Can be Tempting
What are the holidays without brightly coloured bows and presents wrapped under the tree? Ensure your pet’s safety by keeping certain gifts out of sight until the special day.
Edible gifts such as those containing chocolate, candies, or baking should not be accessible. Chocolate, coffee, liquor, and other “people” foods can be toxic to pets (even in small quantities). Keen noses might also pick up on scented candles and soaps and mistake them for food, so keep these gifts tucked safely away.
It's hard to resist the temptation to wrap their presents and let them unwrap them on Christmas morning, but ribbons, bows, and wrapping paper can cause harm if ingested by your pet. Be sure to monitor them closely or skip the wrapping a altogether
A curious kitten could benefit from a puzzle or catnip toy to keep her mind and eyes off the exciting present opening portion of the day's festivities.
5. The Dangers of Cords
Electrical cords are everywhere around the holidays. Keep cords away from chewing pets by taping them to walls, using cord protectors, or hiding them behind furniture, under carpets, or under a tree skirt. Taste deterrents or indoor repellents can keep pets from chewing cords and away from trees or other decorations.
When left alone, pets who have a habit of chewing on wires should be quarantined away from these areas of the house. Unplug decorations when you aren't home just to be pet safe.
6. Holiday Stress is Not Just for People
The holiday hustle and bustle affects more than just people. Believe it or not, stress can get to your furry family members, too. Managing your pet's routine and environment can help ease anxiety and avoid destructive behaviours. Here are a few things to consider:
- A Sense of Normalcy: Keep things as consistent as possible to ease stress on your dog or cat. Amidst your busy schedule, keep pet mealtimes and exercise as routine as possible. Try puzzle toys or automatic feeders to help keep both of you on schedule.
- One-On-One Time: Make sure you schedule some time just with you and your pet. Whether it's a lovely walk in the snowy streets or cuddling on the couch, your pet will appreciate that you take the time just for them - even when you're busy.
- Home Alone Blues: Be careful how much time your pet is spending home alone. If you can't make it home to play with, exercise, walk, or feed your pet on certain days, ask a friend or hire a dog sitter to do just that.
- A Quiet Place: Is your house a whole lot busier than usual? Make sure your pet has a quiet place to retreat to. Even if your pet likes to be the center of attention, you may want to give him some mandatory quiet time so he can relax. For pets that already suffer from anxiety, try a combination of exercise and calming remedies, like a Thundershirt, to help ease the tension.
Learn more about how to handle your dog's anxiety by checking out our Ultimate Guide to Dealing with Dog Anxiety, or if you have a stressed-out kitty, learn How to Manage Cat Anxiety and Build Positive Routines.
7. Keeping Your Christmas Tree Safe
The tree is the staple of your holiday décor, but it presents hidden risks to your pet. If you have a live tree, ensure treated water is out of reach for thirsty pets, as it can cause uncomfortable gastrointestinal side effects such as nausea or vomiting. Watch that your dog or cat is not ingesting pine needles that can puncture and cause stomach discomfort.
Keep your tree stable and sturdy, making sure it is also away from any nearby furniture that could be used as a ladder.
Automated spray repellants or other training aids may help you safely keep your dog and cat away from the tree or other holiday decorations.
Another useful tool for keeping pets away from your beautifully decorated tree is called Sticky Paws. Place Sticky Paws strips near the base of the tree or other decorations to keep your cat from trying to climb or scratch at them.
Want more Christmas pet tips for protecting your stunning Christmas trees? Check out How to Keep Your Dog Away From Your Christmas Tree.
8. Holiday Foods You Shouldn't Share
Food is a big holiday theme, but that can spell trouble for your pet if you aren't watching closely. Many human foods are toxic to pets, like chocolate, alcohol, nuts, and sugary desserts and are most common during the Christmas season. Table scraps such as gravy or fried foods can cause severe digestive issues, which can lead to potentially more life-threatening illnesses.
We tend to cave to our pet's sad eyes and offer them small pieces of our delicious holiday favourites, so be mindful of which treats you choose to share. Try keeping some pet-safe goodies available so that you or your guests can safely treat your pet while you treat yourselves.
Cooked bones, while not human food, can be a hazard to pets over the holidays, too. Cooked bones, compared to raw bones, are brittle and can splinter, potentially causing intestinal blockages or perforations if ingested.
Choose items from your meal prep that are safe, like turkey giblets, and prepare them separately for your pet. This way, you can enjoy holiday meals without risking your pet's health.
Avoid open bowls of food, and don't leave food, boxes of chocolate (particularly chocolate liqueurs), alcohol, or leftovers where a curious pet can access them. Keep garbage secure indoors and out for your pet's safety and others.
Disposing of turkey carcasses should be done especially carefully, as cooked poultry bones and some raw ones can splinter and be very harmful to your pets.
9. Visitors Can Be Scary
During Christmas, you will likely have at least a few more people around your house than usual. Make sure that any new visitors get prepped on pet rules and the safety risk of disobeying those rules. Guests who are giving table scraps to pets are usually well-meaning, but it's important to make sure everyone knows the rules to keep your pet safe.
Keep a close watch on children around your pets. Kids can misinterpret your pet's signals and are often oblivious to the risks involved. When stressed or frightened, pets that are usually even-tempered can become aggressive or unpredictable, so mind your pet's behaviours and look for signs of fear.
Learn How to Read Your Dog's Body Language to help identify signals that your pet is handling the situation poorly.
Unless you know them and are able to keep a close watch, say no to visiting pets. New visiting pets can add stress to an already anxious pet, which could result in aggressive behaviour or acting out.
If Christmas pet visitors are unavoidable, try separating different areas of the house where pets can be while unattended. Only allow interaction when you can give them your full attention.
Other holiday pet safety tips for pets include being aware of traffic in and out of your house, as an open door can quickly lead to an impromptu escape. Be careful around doors. Consider keeping your pet in a comfortable area where they can’t get out as guests come and go.
Better to be safe than sorry- ensure your pet always wears identification tags on her collar and is microchipped. This will increase the chances of getting your favourite furry friend back should they escape during the festivities. This is good practice at any time of the year.
10. Toys and Batteries
There’s nothing more fun than seeing little ones (humans, we mean!) opening up gifts on Christmas! However, it’s well known that pets, especially dogs, love to chew on almost anything they can. Toys and batteries can be one of the biggest holiday dangers for pets!
Batteries are almost everywhere today – toys, keys, watches, and even greeting cards!
There are tons of opportunities for your pet to be hurt.
- Hard plastic toys can break a playful dog’s teeth
- Boardgame pieces can be choking hazards
- Batteries contain zinc, which can cause renal damage and pancreatitis should your pet ingest them
However, you can minimize the extra risk that comes with extra toys and batteries around the holidays. Some of the best Christmas pet tips are keeping loose batteries and small toys off the floor and away from your pet’s mouth. Monitor children’s playtimes and have them clean up their toys with you.
Be aware of what items contain batteries. Keep them away from your playful and curious pets. Keep safe dog or cat toys available to help redirect your pet if they are curious about any gifts Santa delivered for kids (or you if you are still a kid at heart!).
Follow these simple guidelines to make the holidays a breeze for your pets. They deserve to celebrate, too, and now you can share your holiday spirit with all of your family members, furry or not. Enjoy your holidays, and stay safe!
Frequently Asked Questions About Holiday Pet Safety
What are some common holiday hazards for pets, and how can I prevent them?
Common hazards include toxic plants, holiday decorations, and holiday foods. Prevent these dangers by pet-proofing your home and keeping harmful items out of reach.
How can I ensure my pet stays safe around holiday decorations like Christmas trees and ornaments?
Secure your tree to prevent it from falling, use non-toxic decorations, and place fragile ornaments higher up to deter pets from knocking them over.
Are holiday plants like poinsettias, holly, and mistletoe toxic to pets, and what should I do if my pet ingests them?
Yes, these plants can be toxic to pets. Contact your veterinarian immediately if your pet ingests any of these plants, and keep them out of reach.
Is it safe to feed holiday leftovers to pets, and are there specific foods to avoid?
Some holiday foods are safe for pets in moderation, but others, like chocolate, bones, and certain spices can be toxic. Stick to pet-safe treats during the holidays.
How can I manage holiday stress or anxiety in my pet?
Maintain a consistent routine, provide a quiet space for your pet to retreat to, and consider using calming products to reduce your pet's stress during the holidays.
What precautions should I take when hosting holiday gatherings with guests and pets in the house?
Keep your pet's routine as normal as possible, supervise interactions between pets and guests, and remind guests not to feed your pet any potentially harmful foods. Give your pet a safe place in the home to retreat to during the holidays if the hustle and bustle becomes too much.