The holidays are a time of cheer, but all the festivities, food, and decor can pose a threat to your pets’ safety! In my former career as a vet tech, I saw first-hand how many pets get injured or sick during the holidays. Our busiest nights at the emergency center were Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Valentine’s Day night.
More recently, I spent one Thanksgiving night at a veterinary emergency center because my in-law’s Poodle zipped open my purse and ate the sugar-free gum that was inside. (The xylitol in it is extremely poisonous to pets.)
As we approach Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Years, here are some tips to keep in mind so that your furry family members can stay healthy and safe.
Tree and Decor Safety
Who doesn’t love decorating for the holidays? We do, but we also know that pets can be a bit mischievous when it comes to Christmas trees, garlands and ornaments. It’s important to take precautions when decorating to keep our pets safe around Christmas. The ASPCA offers the following guidelines:
- Make sure you anchor your tree securely - Cats like to climb, and dogs can bump into them while playing (I can vouch for a tiny cat’s ability to knock a tree over in an instant!)
- Skip the tinsel - It looks pretty to you, and to your cat. But if pets chew on and swallow tinsel it can cause an obstruction and lead to death.
- Don’t leave lit candles unattended - If you have a cat, you know they can knock things off of shelves and tables like it’s their day job, and lit candles could be a major fire hazard.
Both the FDA and the ASPCA offer more suggestions for simple decor changes that will keep your pets safe and ensure you enjoy the holidays. You can find those posts below:
Turkey & Tinsel & Mistletoe - ASPCA
Plants to Use Sparingly or Avoid All Together
Most pet owners know that Poinsettias can be deadly, right? Think again. I was surprised to find out that it’s actually a myth!
From the ASPCA:
“A persistent holiday myth insists that the poinsettia plant is toxic to pets. In reality, poinsettias cause only mild to moderate gastrointestinal irritation. Keeping it out of pets’ reach is still a good idea, but there’s no need to banish it altogether.” (Source)
So, enjoy your poinsettias, but make sure you supervise your pets while you have them on display and discourage chewing.
Here are some other plants to avoid (or invest in fabulous faux versions!):
- Mistletoe - Mistletoe can cause both gastrointestinal and cardiovascular distress. It’s best to avoid it if possible
- Holly - Causes nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, need we say more?
- Lilies - While not as popular at Christmas, many types of lilies can make your pet sick as well; something to consider around Easter time
Holiday plants are not the only plants that can make our pets sick or even cause death. Keep this list on hand from the ASPCA (pro tip - bookmark it on both your phone and your computer so it will always be handy!) just in case your pet munches on something you’re unsure about.
Foods and Treats to Avoid
- Turkey and Chicken - Both contain bones that can splinter and cause serious problems for pets, but they also tend to be high in fat and spices that can be very dangerous for pets
- Chocolate - Chocolate can be tricky as it depends on many factors as to how your pet will respond so it’s best to avoid it all together and make sure you keep it out of the reach of clever pets!
According to the FDA, “Chocolate toxicity depends on the type and amount of chocolate your dog has eaten, his body weight, and if he’s extra-sensitive to the toxic compound in chocolate called theobromine, Stamper says.” (Source)
- Sweets - By now, most of us know to avoid peanut butter that contains the artificial sweetener xylitol, but the truth is, it’s found in many sweet treats that might be tempting to share with your fur baby. Just say no to those adorable puppy eyes!
- Alcoholic Beverages - This probably seems self-explanatory, but make sure you keep alcoholic beverages up and out of the reach of your four-legged friends and make sure house guests do as well
Instead: Treat your pups to some healthy, homemade, all-natural treats like these!
A Special Note About Bone Treats
OK, I know what you’re asking, “If I have to avoid all this stuff what can I give to my furry little friends?”. I get it, you want to spoil your pet during the holidays. Maybe you have a pet stocking for Fluffy and Fido? But, even there, we have to be careful.
This year, the FDA has urged consumers to be careful about the bone type treats you can buy in pet stores as they’ve been proven to make dogs sick, or worse.
From the FDA:
“FDA has received about 68 reports of pet illnesses related to "bone treats,” which differ from uncooked butcher-type bones because they are processed and packaged for sale as dog treats. The reports were received between November 1, 2010 and September 12, 2017. A variety of commercially-available bone treats for dogs—including treats described as “Ham Bones,” “Pork Femur Bones,” “Rib Bones,” and “Smokey Knuckle Bones”—were listed in the reports. The products may be dried through a smoking process or by baking, and may contain other ingredients such as preservatives, seasonings, and smoke flavorings.” (Source)
It’s best to check with your veterinarian for toy and treat suggestions for your individual pets. They can recommend the best chew toys or treats for your pet’s dietary and chewing style.
For your pup, might we recommend some healthy, homemade, all-natural treats like these?
In general, common sense is key. Keep dangerous items out of the reach of pets, choose your decor wisely, and make sure your house guests do the same. There’s nothing wrong with treating your fabulous furry friends to a little Christmas cheer, but do your research, make sure it’s safe, and keep treats in moderation.
For more Holiday Safety Tips, check out this post from the ASPCA.