Pet Safety During The Holiday Season

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, the holiday season is ripe with health and safety hazards for house pets, from the decorations to the food to seasonal house plants. So before putting up a tree or candles or a nativity set, here are a few things to consider.


A rambunctious cat or dog could easily tip the Christmas tree over and possibly injure themselves. Make sure the tree is anchored securely, and if it’s nesting in water, don’t let your pets drink it, as the bacteria could make them sick.

If you have a pet that’s prone to chewing—a dog, a bird, a rabbit—don’t leave them alone near the tree, especially if you’ve sprayed it with fake snow, which is toxic to them. Keep an eye on holiday lights for any fraying or teeth marks. If an animal chomps down on a cord, it could cause tongue lacerations at best, electrocution at worst.

If you walk in on a pet chewing a cord, don’t panic and try to yank it out of their mouth; that could cause them to tighten their grip and get a shock. Instead, unplug the lights and then coax them into letting it go. Replace any damaged lights.

Bright, colorful ornaments may look pretty, but they can attract an animal’s destructive curiosity. Dogs may chew on them, cats may bat at them, or birds may dislodge them, which would be especially dangerous if the ornaments are breakable, have sharp edges, or are small enough to present a choking hazard. Your bird may look cute perched on the Christmas tree, but even if they’re well-behaved enough not to chew on anything, they could get poked by ornament hooks.

Plastic is the safest bet. Any ornaments made of glass, aluminum, or paper should be higher up on the tree where pets can’t reach them. Similarly, if you have candles on display, place them in a hard-to-reach spot so that pets can’t burn themselves or knock them over.

Tinsel, ribbons, and bows can be attractive to animals, especially cats, who like to bat them around. But they’re dangerous when nibbled or swallowed, as they twist and bunch up in the intestines and cause digestive blockage, which leads to severe vomiting and dehydration. If your pet has eaten tinsel or ribbons, contact your veterinarian immediately. Emergency surgery may be needed.


Before you  bring a new houseplant into the home as part of your holiday decorations, be sure it’s not a plant that’s toxic to animals, such as poinsettias, winter cherry, ivy, holly, and mistletoe. If you do get those plants, keep them on a high shelf where they can’t be nibbled.

When preparing your holiday feast, make sure pets aren’t near the food unattended, as they might eat something that’s bad for them, or choke on a bone from the holiday turkey. Even after you throw food away, secure the lids on garbage cans in case a hungry dog knocks it over in search of leftovers.

If you decide to hold a holiday party, make sure the guests don’t give your pets any unsafe table scraps. Keep them away from tobacco and marijuana smoke and make sure they don’t lap up any alcoholic beverage.

Also, when it comes to parties, pets might become anxious if they’re not accustomed to being around too many people at once. Prepare a spare room in a quieter part of the house and take them there if needed.

Head to the Veterinary Pet Insurance website for extensive lists of which plants and foods are unsafe for pets.

If your pet ingests any toxic substances, call Animal Poison Control at (888) 426-4435.

– Särah Nour

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