Holiday Safety Tips for Pet Owners

Pet Cat playing with Christmas decor

The last thing anyone needs during the hectic, stressful holiday season is a sick pet or a middle-of-the-night trip in frigid weather to the emergency vet clinic.

Some pet holiday hazards are more obvious and well-known than others. A partial list of things your four-legged family member should avoid:

  • Christmas trees, live or artificial, pose an irresistible temptation for many dogs and cats. Your dog might knock it over as he runs through the room; your kitty might pull it over on herself if she tries climbing or jumping onto it.
  • Live trees are often treated with toxic chemicals. Their needles, if ingested, can cause GI problems. And the sitting water at the base of your tree, should your pet decide to sample it, can be festering with bacteria.

  • Christmas tree decorations can also spell trouble. Tinsel, angel hair, glass ornaments and metal hanging hooks can do serious damage to your pet’s paws, mouth, and digestive tract.
  • Holiday candles are another hazard. Both flames and dripping wax can burn your pet, and if a burning candle is knocked over by a rowdy or curious dog or cat, a fire can result. Your pet might also try to sample food-scented candles.
  • Holiday plants and flowers like poinsettias, lilies, amaryllis, holly and mistletoe. If your dog or cat samples one of these, it will result in digestive upset at a minimum, and can even be fatal.
  • Wrapping paper, bows, ribbons and the like – bright colored and crackly-sounding – can also be an enticement for a curious pet. Ingesting gift wrap will likely make your dog or cat quite ill, and in some cases can cause more serious damage to internal organs.
Dr. Becker's Comments:

Everyone recognizes the holidays can be very stressful for people, but did you know the same holds true for the family pet?

Any change in routine or diet, changes in the environment (like a house all decorated for the holidays), and guests dropping by or staying overnight can cause stress for your dog or cat. That’s why it’s important to try to keep your pet’s meals and exercise schedule as predictable as possible throughout the holiday season.

This will be harder to do if you’re traveling to visit family or friends, whether you take Fido or Fluffy along or leave them behind with a pet sitter or in a boarding facility.

If there’s no way to avoid a disruption in your pet’s routine over the holidays, just be aware that your furry friend is probably feeling anxious. Be prepared for temporary changes in his appetite and behavior that may be the result of stress.

Ten Tips for Keeping Your Pet Safe During the Holidays

  1. Secure your Christmas tree, either with a heavy stand or by attaching it to the ceiling, so it cannot be tipped or knocked over.
  2. If you have a live tree, make sure the standing water in the base can neither spill nor be drunk by a thirsty pet. There could be fertilizers or other chemicals in the water and/or bacteria, all of which could make your dog or cat sick.
  3. Especially if you have a cat, resist the urge to hang tinsel. Kitties love the stuff, and it can cause serious gastrointestinal problems if ingested.
  4. Avoid tree ornaments that shatter easily and secure cords and wires out of reach of your pets.
  5. Holiday gatherings mean food, food and more food. Cooking, baking, gift baskets, party treats – many contain chocolate and other people foods that are unfortunately toxic when consumed by dogs and cats. As challenging as it can be, you’ll need to exercise vigilance in keeping food, leftovers and scraps entirely away from your pets over the holidays. This goes for alcoholic beverages as well.
  6. Choose pet presents carefully. It may be tempting while you’re out holiday shopping to buy something for your pet you normally wouldn’t – like a collection of cute, colorful, cuddly looking pet toys tucked into a stocking, for example.
  7. Unfortunately, many pet toys are easily torn apart by a playful or determined animal, and small pieces like bells and squeakers can be ingested. Needless to say, your pet’s digestive tract wasn’t designed to handle stuffed animal parts or pieces of hard rubber, and the result can be disastrous. Buy safe toys instead, like a laser pointer for kitty to get her physically active, or the Clever K-9 for the doggy love of your life.

  8. Don’t deck the halls with live toxic plants like holly, mistletoe, poinsettias, or lilies. Either skip these types of plants altogether or substitute silk or plastic versions instead.
  9. If you like to decorate with candles, use safe candle holders, put candles well out of the reach of your pet, and make sure to extinguish any burning candle when you leave a room.
  10. Make sure your little furry friend has a place of her own she can escape to. Your dog should have a crate in a quiet corner of the house, with a soft surface inside for napping, a few toys, and a water bowl nearby.
  11. Kitty should have her own out-of-the-way spot as well. Many cats feel more secure when they’re hidden. A covered bed or a little cozy set-up all her own on a closet floor, for example, can be perfect for a timid kitty. One of my clients discovered her cat liked to nap during the day under a plastic footstool in her walk-in closet. She bought a small sheepskin cat bed and tucked it under the footstool, making her kitty’s hiding place extra warm and comfy.

  12. Keep your pet safe through New Year’s celebrations as well. Confetti and streamers can pose a problem if ingested. Parties with a lot of folks coming and going can mean doors or windows left open, allowing an unsupervised pet access to the outdoors. Noisemakers and fireworks can be terrifying, so your dog or cat should be kept at a safe, secure distance from loud or careless revelry.

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