Home > Pet Insurance > Guide To Keeping Your Pets Safe During the Holiday Season

Guide To Keeping Your Pets Safe During the Holiday Season

Updated Dec 1, 2022

Updated Dec 1, 2022

Home > Pet Insurance > Guide To Keeping Your Pets Safe During the Holiday Season

We recommend the best products through an independent review process, and advertisers do not influence our picks. We may receive compensation if you visit partners we recommend. Read our advertiser disclosure for more info.

One of the most exciting parts of the holiday season is decking the halls of your home and whipping up your favorite nostalgic dishes. As a pet owner, it’s important to remember your furry friend’s well-being during all the hustle and bustle of festivities. That’s right – even some of the season’s fun parts may risk your pet’s health and safety.

Fortunately, you can take a few precautions to ensure you spend your holiday at home instead of at the veterinary clinic. We’ll show you how to keep your beloved buddy out of harm’s way with this holiday pet safety guide.

pug sitting under a Christmas tree
Image Source: Canva

Hazardous Holiday Plants

Did you know that some of the festive flora decorating your home may be toxic to your furry family members?

Mistletoe is a common holiday plant that brings guests together for a kiss. However, this romantic plant contains alkaloids, polysaccharides, and lectins, chemicals that can cause gastrointestinal irritation. If your cat or dog consumes mistletoe, they might begin vomiting, drooling, or experiencing diarrhea. If large amounts of the plant are eaten, seizures, collapse, and abnormal heart rate can occur.

If you plan to include mistletoe in your holiday decor, hang it far out of paw’s reach. Otherwise, your animals might find a way to knock it down and use it as a chew toy.

Stunning, scarlet-colored poinsettias grace many tabletops and mantels around Christmastime. These festive flowers contain a milky sap that’s mildly toxic to cats and dogs. If your buddy gobbles up a poinsettia leaf or stem, you might notice signs of stomach upset or skin irritation around your pet’s mouth. Luckily, the plants are rarely toxic enough to warrant a trip to the veterinary clinic. However, ensuring your pet doesn’t get ahold of one is important to maintaining its comfort and health.

cat next to a poinsettia plant with bright red petals
Image Source: Canva

Oh! Christmas Tree

The Christmas tree is perhaps the most iconic holiday plant in your home. It’s also a fascinating new toy for devious dogs and curious cats. Dogs might think the tree holder is a fancy new water bowl, and cats might see the branches as a climbing gym. If your pets are prone to chewing on things, you might want to swap a real tree for an artificial one. Pine needles are toxic to pets and can cause mouth and throat damage if swallowed. Artificial trees won’t drop any needles, leaving fewer tree tidbits for your pets to nibble on.

Tree water might contain fertilizers, chemicals, and prickly pine needles that cause stomach upset. Prevent your pet from getting into trouble by covering the water container with a tree skirt. Consider a tree collar like this one from Amazon. The collar surrounds the base of your tree, protecting the water dish from thirsty pets. You’ll have to move the skirt or collar to refill the tree dish, but your pets will be unable to steal a sip.

Cat owners must consider how their feline friends might interact with an indoor Christmas tree. Some cats are indifferent to a tree, while others let their curiosity turn into mischief.

orange cat looking up at a Christmas tree
Image Source: Canva

Follow these tips from PETA to cat-proof your Christmas tree:

  • Allow your cat to get used to the tree before decorating it.
  • Secure the tree with a stable base and attach the top to a wall to prevent it from tipping over.
  • Place the tree away from furniture your cat could use as a “launching zone” to jump.
  • Repel your cat from the tree with natural deterrents like tin foil and citrus peels.
  • Hang lights and ornaments far into the branches to discourage your cat from playing with them.
  • Unplug tree lights when you’re unable to supervise your pet.

Dangerous Decorations

There’s no doubt that holiday decorations are a must. Remembering a few pet-friendly best practices will ensure your decor is more merry than scary.

Keep breakable ornaments at the top of your Christmas tree where your pets can’t reach them. All it takes is one precise paw swipe for glass to come shattering down over your pet. Your pet may walk across the shards of glass or try eating them, leading to lacerations and bleeding.

Other materials like sparkly tinsel, wrapping paper, and ribbons might be tempting toys for your animals. But beware – these seemingly harmless baubles are choking hazards for curious pets. Even if your pet avoids a choking hazard, swallowing a non-food item isn’t much better. The material could get stuck in your pet’s stomach and lead to severe intestinal blockage. Such bowel obstructions often require surgery and can be fatal if left untreated.

brown dog pulling the ribbon off of a gift box
Image Source: Canva

Candles are another popular decoration for pet parents to heed during the holidays. Lit candles won’t just cause burns – they can also tip over and spread into serious house fires. It’s best to leave candles unlit if your pets can access the countertops. If you’d like to have cozy flames burning during your holiday gathering, consider keeping your pet in a separate room.

Holiday Foods You Shouldn’t Feed Your Pets

Many pet owners see holiday meals as a time to let their pets indulge in people food. Some people feed their animals goodies straight from their plates or provide their pets with a feast of table scraps after the meal. Unfortunately, some of your buddy’s favorite holiday treats might be bad for its health.

Fatty foods like turkey skin and buttery casseroles can lead to pancreatitis in dogs. Pancreatitis can cause fever, abdominal pain, dehydration, and lethargy. The condition can eventually lead to diabetes, organ failure, or death if left untreated.

Foods like pies, casserole toppings, and dressings might contain an artificial sweetener called xylitol, which is toxic to dogs. When a dog eats xylitol, the chemical enters its bloodstream and triggers an insulin release from the pancreas. The rapid influx of insulin causes the canine’s blood sugar to drop suddenly, resulting in hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia often leads to serious symptoms like seizures, extreme lethargy, trembling, and disorientation.

If your dog is especially eager for a treat come mealtime, it might go sniffing in the trash can post-feast. Make sure you put all leftover food scraps where your dog can’t reach them. Even seemingly dog-friendly leftovers like turkey or chicken bones can splinter in your dog’s throat and cause internal bleeding or breathing problems.

You’ve likely heard that chocolate is bad for dogs, but dozens of other food items could leave your pal sick. This guide from the Humane Society lists foods that can be poisonous for pets. Check the list – and check it twice – to ensure these items are out of pets’ reach this holiday season.

dog sitting between two people at a table
Image Source: Canva

Considerations for Anxious Animals

You may not realize it, but holiday gatherings can be incredibly stressful for pets. People enter your home while loud music and clinking glasses produce overwhelming noise. If your pet suffers from anxiety during loud events like thunderstorms and fireworks, keep its mental health in mind during the holiday season.

Oakland Veterinary Referral Services provides the following tips for keeping pets safe during holiday parties:

  • Arrange for a pet sitter or boarding service to look after your pet during the festivities.
  • Provide your pet with a comfortable, quiet room to relax while you entertain guests.
  • Play soothing music or run a fan to generate some white noise for your furry friend.
  • Don’t force your pet to be a part of the fun; if the animal seems overwhelmed, allow it to greet guests at its own pace.
  • Keep the door closed at all times once guests are done pouring in; an anxious pet might make a run for it to escape the stressful environment.
  • Remember that your pet is part of your family – if your buddy can’t handle large crowds and loud noise, you might want to keep your party smaller and mellower.
two dogs wearing party hats sitting on a couch
Image Source: Canva

A Very Merry Pet-friendly Holiday

We hope these pet safety tips help your furry friends have a healthy and happy holiday.

The parts of the season that are fun and exciting for humans sometimes don’t have the same effect on animals. What we see as beautiful decorations might look like challenging obstacle courses or engaging chew toys for our pets. Similarly, our favorite nostalgic dishes seem appealing to our furry friends but can cause serious health consequences for them.

Taking simple precautions each year can keep you home for the holidays instead of at the vet’s office. You can navigate the season with the well-being of your family members – especially the furry ones – top of mind.

Disclosure: House Method participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate advertising program is designed to provide a means for the publishers to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Other Pet Insurance Resources