it pause on Mariah Carey and put down the mistletoe! Before decking the halls and trimming your tree, there are important holiday pet safety precautions pet parents need to take.
We spoke to Dr. Mary Gardener, DVM, veterinarian and cofounder of Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice about the traditional holiday decorations that could pose a risk to our furry family members. Don’t “bah humbug!” us, though: You still have plenty of décor options that feel festive and stylish.
Seasonal Flowers and Plants
Watch Out For:
Are poinsettias poisonous to dogs or cats? You’re better off steering clear of the following classic holiday blooms if you’re a pet parent:
- English ivy
- Rosemary topiary
- Gastrointestinal (GI) issues, such as diarrhea
- Lack of coordination or balance
Watch Out For:
Full of twinkling lights and swinging ornaments, traditional Christmas trees are practically a beacon for mischief—and live ones may pose a danger to pets. “Keep your pet from ingesting the needles,” warns Dr. Gardner. “They can cause GI upset.” Additionally, keep pets from drinking the tree water, as it might cause stomach upset.
“Tinsel is also worth avoiding as well,” says Dr. Gardner. “Cats love threads and ribbons, and they can get wrapped around their tongues and cause intestinal damage.”
Low-hanging glass Christmas tree ornaments are also a no-no around wagging tails and pouncing felines. These can easily be knocked to the ground and broken, causing a hazard for both pets and people.
Finally, cords from Christmas tree lights can also be nibbled upon which could lead to an electrical shock.
For a dog and cat-safe Christmas tree, shop for a faux fir (so you don’t have to worry about the needles), and place fragile ornaments high on the tree and use floral wire to affix them to the branches. Invest in shatter-proof ornaments for the lower branches. Don’t worry—there are some really pretty ones out there, like this green-hued plastic set.
Be sure to also take care with cords: You can easily install pet-safe cord protectors on those you can’t move out of reach.
For extra holiday pet safety precautions, set up a pet gate around your Christmas tree to create a physical barrier between furry friends and your holiday décor. Free-standing gates, like Internet’s Best Traditional Arch Pet Gate, can be placed anywhere.
Watch Out For:
Tis the season to have a lot more treats around than usual—and while not necessarily décor, they can also pose a risk to our animal friends.
It may be tempting to leave a plate of chocolate-chip cookies out under the tree, but they can easily be gobbled up by hungry pets. “Chocolate, and especially baking chocolate, is a huge no-no,” says Dr. Gardener, who explains that the yummy ingredient can be poisonous to dogs and cats.
Also resist giving Christmas candy and other sweets to your furry loves: Sugar can cause gastric upset and weight gain, while sugar-free treats may contain xylitol—an artificial sweetener that is toxic to pets.
Keep food and ingredients tucked away where pets can’t access them, and give any holiday visitors strict instructions about not feeding pets any human food. If they want to give your pet a treat, have some pet treats available that can be given instead. You can even theme these to the holiday: Blue Buffalo’s Holiday Santa Snacks Dog Treats< feature fun holiday shapes, and the Temptations Holiday Dinner Cat Treats come in red and green hues.
Accidents can happen, so look out for these signs that your pet might have indulged in something they shouldn’t have:
- Loss of coordination
- Muscle tremors
- A temp of over 103
Dr. Gardner also recommends keeping hydrogen peroxide in a pet first-aid kit in case of accidental ingestion of a dangerous food.
“If your pet gets into food they weren’t supposed to, call your vet who may suggest hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting,” says Dr. Gardner. “They’ll recommend a dosage based on weight.” (Never ever offer this remedy without your veterinarian’s instruction.)
Watch Out For:
Candles add so much ambience to a room or table, but they can be dangerous in a home with a pet. Never leave a burning candle unattended in your house. If you’re in a room with candles, make sure that they’re not in a spot where a pet can easily knock them over or brush against them accidentally. Some scented home products may also pose a respiratory risk to pets, due to their more sensitive airways. (Learn more here.
LED candles give a fairly realistic candlelit look if you want that festive, flickering illumination without the risk of a flame.
If you do want to use a real candle, make sure they’re placed in a vessel where the flame isn’t exposed: Opt for jarred candles or encase pillar candles in glass cylinders. Also try to select products that are specifically marketed as being safe for pets and natural soy wax candles (like Pet House Vanilla Crème Brûlée Soy Natural Candle) instead of paraffin, which can contain more respiration irritants.
Just like for people, the holidays can be a stressful time for pets. Different décor, new smells and unfamiliar humans all present new challenges. Be on the lookout for any behavior that doesn’t seem normal—you know your pet better than anyone. Take changes in mood, appetite and behavior seriously, and give your vet a ring if anything seems out of the ordinary. Remember that keeping a consistent routine and giving pets safe spaces to retreat to if they’re feeling anxious can help everyone in the family have a safe and happy holiday.