10 Tips to Keep Your Pets Safe During the Holiday Season

10 Tips to Keep Your Pets Safe During the Holiday Season

Amid the flurry of holiday activities, it’s important to remain mindful of our pets’ well-being. Here are some ways to help keep our cherished pets healthy and happy throughout the holiday season.

1. Holiday Feasts are Not for All Beasts

What a delicious feast! Quite often we don’t want to deprive our animals the joy of partaking in a holiday meal. A bite or two is usually fine, but keep the portion sizes small. Be cautious of poultry skins, gravy, and rich cuts of meat, as these can cause upset stomachs, diarrhea, and potentially painful pancreas problems due to the high fat contents of these foods. We veterinarians expect at least a couple cases of pancreatitis to come in to see us in the days following Thanksgiving.

2. Dismiss Dangerous Treats

Please avoid giving your pets the following foods: Chocolate, macadamia nuts, onions, alcoholic beverages, artificial sweeteners like xylitol, and raw bread dough. These can all cause serious to fatal reactions that can quickly put a damper on our holiday festivities.


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3. Minimize Stress from Guests

As visitors arrive throughout the season, our normal routines can quickly get disrupted. This is especially difficult for our pets. Try to keep feeding, walking, and play routines as close to normal as possible. Make sure sensitive dogs and cats have a safe place they can retreat to in order to escape any perceived chaos. Look into Feliway®, or Adaptil/DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) products to use if your pet seems especially stressed. These are all drug-free anxiety aids for pets and are available at most major pet stores. If you’d like to keep your pup entertained and out of trouble during holiday parties, a toy filled with low-calorie treats, like Mini Naturals, can be a great way to keep pups occupied while you’re greeting guests.

4. Beware of Décor Danger

Please pay attention to the types of decorations you choose to put up. Styrofoam and glass ornaments may not look tasty to us, but are common objects for pets to ingest and cause stomach and intestinal obstructions. Ornaments sculpted from salt-based dough cause severe electrolyte imbalances and can lead to seizures or even death. Tinsel is particularly hazardous for cats. It sparkles and moves in a way that cats are drawn to and they often swallow it, causing severe intestinal bunching that requires emergency surgery to fix. It is a good idea to keep this out of your home or limit it to the upper branches of your tree. In addition, be sure to secure your Christmas tree so it is not at risk to topple over onto your pet.

5. Avoid Poisonous Holiday Plants

Mistletoe, poinsettias, lilies, holly, and sharp pine needles all cause illnesses in pets. Keep them out of reach!

Also be sure to keep your pets away from the Christmas tree water in the stand. Add-in fertilizers, disinfectants, and stabilizers can all be harmful to your pets. Even the National Christmas Tree Association states that fresh tap water is best for your tree. It’s also the safest choice for your family. Just make sure your pets don’t drink too much of the tree water and dry it out prematurely.

6. Steer Clear of Automotive Hazards

Antifreeze, even in very small amounts, can cause rapid kidney failure in dogs and cats. It is best to keep pets out of the garage year round, but especially during the colder months when cars may leak these hazardous fluids.

7. Be Mindful of Plugs and Cords

Extension cords and holiday lights attract curious pets. If chewed — and this is more common than you might think — they can cause mouth and throat burns.

8. Watch Out for Wrapping Woes

Like tinsel, ribbons and strings look like toys to cats and puppies and are harmful if swallowed. Cloth and wrapping paper can also cause obstructions in dogs and cats.

9. Activate Aversives

Hopefully I haven’t completely discouraged you from any and all holiday celebrations — I just want you to be vigilant from potential hazards around the home. Aversives — products that encourage your pet away from dangerous objects — can be helpful. Low-tech aversives include double-stick tape or contact paper to dissuade your cat from approaching a tree ripe with dangling ornaments. Cats hate having sticky things on their foot pads! Baby gates are good for keeping a curious dog out of a specific area as well. High-tech products like motion sensor noise makers or Scat Mats® can help if a pet is particularly stubborn.

10. Give Glorious Gifts

I’ve saved the best for last. What types of gifts can we give to our pets that are safe? A brief word of caution: Novelty holiday toys for pets tend to be flimsier and more easily chewed apart and destroyed. You can still give holiday presents, just be sure to closely watch your pet after giving them a new toy. A safe bet would be a comfy new bed, durable chew toys, a cool new collar, or adventure gear. Of course, you could never go wrong with a bag or two of Zuke’s treats!

Disclaimer: This information is educational in nature and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical prevention, diagnosis, or treatment.

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About the Author

Dr. Jennifer Deming, DVM

Jennifer Deming, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian at AspenTree Animal Caring Center in Durango and member of the American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition. She strives to improve her patients' wellness through nutrition counseling and preventative medicine. When she’s not at the clinic, Dr. Jen enjoys trail running, gourmet cooking, hiking, and enjoying all things Durango with her family—including cats Fujita and Toonces, and dog Leia.
Dr. Jennifer Deming, DVM