Holiday Safety For Pets
There are many things that change in your home during the holidays. Packages and visitors come through the door, decorations adorn the house, big meals are made with special foods, and wrapped gifts surround a new tree in the main part of your home. As much fun as this can be, it can also pose some stress and risks to your pets. Learn some important holiday safety rules, tricks, and tips that can help keep you and your pets happy during this season.
When hosting visitors, keep a leash and collar or harness securely on your pets, with ID tags showing your cell phone number. Be sure your pets are microchipped. Pets can slip out the door in a heartbeat and be gone. Alternately, keep an exercise pen set up at the door so you can open the door, but your pets can’t escape.
The skinny cords on Christmas tree lights are not well insulated and easy for a puppy to chew into. Electrocution can result, so safety is paramount. Keep the cords covered so pets stay safe. Also, consider keeping the lower branches of the tree free from lights. If you catch your dog chewing on a cord, unplug the cord immediately and move it out of their reach.
Christmas Trees & Decorations
You can easily add a safety measure by tethering your tree to the ceiling with a plant hook and a thin wire. Curious climbing pups or those with enthusiastically-wagging tails will appreciate not having the tree fall over on them. Also, monitor and prevent pine needle and tree water ingestion.
Hang bells on the lower branches to help alert you to your pet’s exploration of the tree. Either keep your special, breakable ornaments at the tops of the tree or in storage the years you have young dogs romping around. Another option is to surround the tree with an exercise pen to remove any temptation to much on ornaments.
Tinsel, yarn, strings, and other items with long strands can be fascinating to pets. Avoid using these products in areas where pets can get into them. Strings of popcorn and cranberries may be especially enticing, so keep these out of reach.
Traditional holiday plants like mistletoe and holly are toxic to dogs. Yew, the evergreen many people have in their landscaping is extremely toxic. As a safety measure, avoid bringing clippings into your home to use as garland unless you can identify the variety. Poinsettias are not toxic, but any plant ingestions can lead to oral irritation, vomiting and/or diarrhea.
Several common holiday foods that humans can safely eat are unsafe for dogs. These include chocolate, raisins and grapes, Macadamia nuts, and sugarless products containing xylitol. Avoid putting food-containing gifts under the tree, wrapped or unwrapped, when your dogs will be in the room unsupervised. Alcohol innocently set on a low table or the floor can be quickly raided by a pet, leading to serious consequences.
Gifts under the tree occasionally include meats and cheeses. Too much fat from these can be dangerous. Bones and fats from ham, turkey, and other meats can cause pancreatitis or intestinal blockages. Mesh wrappers and leg holders on meats can also smell tempting but cause bowel obstructions. If you’ve got a dog who gets into trash cans, be sure to empty them when they’re full of food.
Avoid using regular sidewalk salt and instead, use cat litter or pet-safe sidewalk salt products. Wash your pet’s paws if they do track through salt that isn’t pet-friendly.
Ethylene glycol, antifreeze, is highly toxic to pets. It has a sweet taste and remains liquid when other water sources are frozen. Ingestion initially will mimic alcohol consumption, but quickly leads to irreversible and fatal kidney failure. Keep antifreeze wiped up and stored in covered containers. Suspected ingestion should require a trip to the veterinarian immediately.
Make sure pets have an unfrozen water supply available to them when they are outside. Heated water bowls are available, with a wire coil surrounding the cords to keep pets safe from chewing through a cord.
Candles & Oils
Dogs can easily tip candles over or venture too close to the flames. Even potpourri oils are dangerous when licked from the source or off their coats. Place these high or avoid altogether. Consider using plug-in room scent products as an alternative.
Identify which home-made treats are for your pets and which are for your family and friends. You don’t want to be the one who bites into a deliciously-decorated dog biscuit.
Pet behavior and holiday guests
- Though the excitement of a party may overwhelm some pets, keep your pets inside during cold weather and provide plenty of toys to keep them busy.
- If needed, provide your cat or dog with a quiet room or crate during holiday parties and/or prepare ahead of time to discourage barking.
- Inform your visitors ahead of time that you have a pet.
Skip the table scrap snacks: Foods not to feed pets.
- Bones: Bones easily splinter and can cause serious health problems (even death) for your pet.
- Candy: Particularly chocolate—which is toxic to dogs, cats and ferrets—and any candy containing the toxic sweetener Xylitol.
- Citrus and pits: Keep foods containing citric acid away from your pets. Foods such as cherry pits, peach pits and apple seeds contain essential oils that have the ability to cause irritations, blockages and even central nervous system depression if a significant amount is ingested.
- Coffee: Grounds, beans and chocolate-covered espresso beans.
- Eggs (raw or undercooked)
- Fish (raw or undercooked)
- Grapes and raisins: These can cause kidney problems.
- Leaves and stems: From vegetables such as tomatoes.
- Meat (raw or undercooked)
- Onions, as well as onion flakes and powder
- Trash: Pets who engage in trash-digging can accidentally eat foods that are potentially poisonous to them. Keep trash in tightly sealed containers or hidden somewhere your pet can't access.
Deck the halls: Holiday decorations and pets.
- Christmas trees and holiday greens: Make sure your dogs or cats do not chew on limbs or droppings from the tree. Ingested pine needles could get lodged in the intestinal tract, puncturing the lining or bunching together and causing an intestinal obstruction.
- Water base: The water base of a Christmas tree may contain dangerous chemicals that could harm your pet.
- Christmas lights and tinsel: Position your tree's lights and tinsel away from the bottom of the tree where pets can reach them. Some pets climb up or into trees and can even knock them over.
- Candles: Don’t leave candles unattended. Pets may accidentally knock them over and spill wax or start a fire.
- Firestarter logs: Dogs that enjoy chewing should steer clear; these logs contain sawdust and paraffin which can cause an irritated stomach or even intestinal blockage when ingested.
- Plants: A number of seasonal plants are poisonous to pets if nibbled or eaten, including ivy, holly, mistletoe and poinsettias.
By sleigh or sea: Holiday travel and pets
- Carefully consider whether to take your pet with you on a trip (air travel can be dangerous).
- If you leave your pets home while you travel, be sure to choose a pet sitter or boarding kennel wisely.
- Wherever your pets spend the holidays, dogs and cats should all wear collars and tags with ID that offer a way to reach you.
In case of emergency
- Identify your closest 24/7 emergency veterinary clinic before an emergency occurs.
- Write down or store in your phone the number for your veterinarian or pet hospital
- Research and write down your pet hospital or clinic's holiday hours.
- Write down or store in your phone the number of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center: 888-426-4435. Note that a consultation fee may apply.