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How to Prevent Holiday Hazards for Pets with 10 of the Best Tips From Trusted Vets

December 17, 2018

There's so much to love about the festive season, but holiday hazards for pets are a real concern that need to be addressed.

holiday-hazards-for-pets

Pets are important members of our families, and naturally, we want to include them in all of our festivities and traditions during the holiday season. However, before you begin to decorate, wrap, and bake, be aware that there are holiday hazards for pets that exist in the home. With a little preparation—using this checklist of tips from veterinarians—you'll be able to relax during the holidays knowing that your furry friends are safe.

holiday-hazards-for-pets

Holiday Hazards for Pets
(and how to avoid them)

1. Just say "no" to people food.
It can be difficult to keep track of the types of human food your pets should not eat; err on the side of caution and stick to buying or making treats formulated just for them. The American Veterinary Medical Foundation, though, notes that the following foods are the most hazardous for your four-legged friends: chocolate, other sweets/baked goods, turkey/turkey skin, onions, raisins, grapes, fatty table scraps, and yeast dough.


2. Be careful about what you put under the tree.
You may be eager to place wrapped gifts under your tree a few weeks or days early to add some Christmas spirit, but if they contain anything tasty or harmful to your pets, you may want to reconsider. "We've seen people put candies in stockings, meat products in boxes, and cakes and treats in bags, all to find everything gone in the morning. The subsequent and joyous Christmas morning ER visit may then be needed," writes Brett Grossman, DVM.


3. Keep festive plants out of reach.
Mistletoe and poinsettia are synonymous with the holiday season, but consider faux options this year. Ernest Ward, DVM, says that some mistletoe species are toxic holiday hazards for pets—causing liver failure or seizures—while others are irritating to the intestinal tract when ingested. Poinsettia sap can irritate a pet's mouth or stomach if they eat the leaves or stem. "Contrary to popular belief, poinsettia is not specifically toxic, but can cause intestinal upset," writes Ward.


4. Choose decorations wisely.
Ribbons, tinsel, and strings of lights are popular holiday decorations, but some pets can like them a little too much—especially cats. Paul Chauvin, DVM, says that eating tinsel, ribbon, or other string-like items can cause severe damage to the intestine. Also, there's the chance of electrical shock if your pet decides to chew on lights or cords. If you know your cat or dog is prone to chewing on and eating foreign objects, be very selective with your decoration choices.


5. Talk to your guests.
If you have any guests coming to your home for the holidays, you may want to have a brief chat with them about your pet and your desire to make sure they stay safe and healthy. Dr. Taylor Parker encourages you to remind guests to close doors and gates so your pet doesn't get out, and that feeding your pets table food can be dangerous. Additionally, if any of your guests take prescription medication—or even vitamins—be sure they keep them out of your pet's reach.


6. Manage your pet's anxiety.
Holiday hazards for pets don't just involve things they shouldn't eat—you need to also watch out for their mental well-being. When your house is filled with people, especially relative strangers to your pets, they can become nervous. The American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF) recommends giving anxious pets their own room or a crate with a favorite toy. If your pet tends to get extremely upset in these situations, talk to your vet about possible solutions.


7. Watch your candles.
Keep all open flames away from animalsespecially those that have the potential to jump on a table and knock the candle over. Brett Grossman, DVM, adds that "Hanukkah candles are not to be extinguished for any reason, so that may mean making sure you don't buy candles that last for hours."


8. Watch what they're drinking.
You likely leave out a bowl of water for your dog or cat, but when there's a new source to drink from, they may be tempted to take a sip or two (…or more). Dr. Chauvin says that if you add chemicals to the water in your Christmas tree stand, read the label to make sure it's safe for pets. Also, cover any pots of liquid potpourri so your pets can't get into it.


9. Secure your tree.
Putting your Christmas tree in a stand may not be enough if you have dogs or cats. Trees can easily tip over from a wagging dog tail or a spry, climbing cat. The AMVF suggests using fishing line to secure your tree to the ceiling or a door frame.


10. Plan in advance.
Whether you're staying home for the holidays or heading out to celebrate with family, have a game plan in the event your pet does get sick or injured. Unfortunately, even the most vigilant pet parents still find that their sneaky cat or dog ate something poisonous or got into something they shouldn't have. Dr. Barry Neichin advises pet owners to speak directly with their vet about plans and map out a travel route to a 24/7 emergency vet clinicespecially if you're not in your hometown.


All of these holiday hazards for pets can feel overwhelming to deal with, but once you have a game plan in place, each year will get easier and more comfortable. Also, you know your dog or cat, and you know their personality—all of these tips may not apply to your pet. For example, you may know that your dog thrives in a crowded party or that your cat doesn't like to chew on random objects. Just keep an eye on your pets, be cautious, and don't forget to buy them a present, too!


Want some extra peace of mind this holiday season? Get yourself the gift of pet insurance. Contact Sauk Valley Insurance to learn more.