Christmas and New Year’s Safety Tips

Christmas can be such a wonderful, festive, and fun holiday; especially when we get to share it with our four-legged family members. As pet owners, it is very important that we know the precautions to take so that our furry kids can safely enjoy this season with us. Keeping their routines as close to normal as possible and keeping them away from unhealthy treats, toxic plants, and dangerous decorations is a must!

Here are some good guidelines to follow:

Christmas Trees and Decorations

  • Make sure that your tree is well anchored and secure. Cats and dogs alike may become overly interested in the big green “bush” in the corner, and it may be impossible to monitor them and/or the tree at all times.
  • Prevent your pet from drinking the tree water if you have a live tree. The tree water can contain chemicals and preservatives, and can also become stagnant, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea.
  • The decorations on your tree can also be dangerous. Avoid using tinsel, edible decorations (i.e. popcorn garland, candy canes), and glass ornaments if your tree is accessible to your pets. These can be tempting and pose as a hazard if ingested or broken, causing anything from GI upset to exploratory surgery, or stitches in paw pads and their mouth.
  • Keep lights and extension cords secured and out of reach or covered to deter your furry family members from chewing them. They can cause burns to the mouth and/or electrocution. Investing in pet-proof extension cords is also an option.
  • Frequently sweep up any pine needles that fall. They are sharp and can irritate the throat and GI tract if swallowed, and they are not digestible which can make them painful for your pet to pass.
  • Make sure any knick-knacks that you may use to decorate that could pose as a fun chew toy for your pet are kept up and out of their reach, including candles and liquid fragrances. Candles can pose as a fire hazard to curious pets, and liquid fragrances (i.e. stick diffusers, plug-in diffusers, sachets, liquid potpourri) if ingested can cause skin irritation, oral irritation and even death.

Holiday Plants

  • Certain types of lilies can be deadly to cats. Knowing what type of lily you are decorating with is very important. Choosing to use artificial flowers may be best if you have curious pets. Any bouquets brought into the house need to be thoroughly inspected to make sure that they are clear of lilies. Even one or two nibbles from a lily can cause acute kidney failure in cats! If you are unsure if the type of lily you are decorating with is poisonous, you can go to or contact your vet.
  • Poinsettias, while not as toxic as other holiday plants, can be irritating to pets. They can cause vomiting, drooling, and sometimes diarrhea. Signs are usually self-limiting, and rarely need medical attention unless severe.
  • Mistletoe is also toxic, berries included. Signs of mistletoe poisoning are gastrointestinal irritation (i.e. drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain) and if ingested in large amounts can cause abnormal heart rate, collapse, hypotension, ataxia, and seizures. It is best to keep mistletoe out of reach of our furry friends.
  • Holly can also cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy.
  • Amaryllis and Hibiscus can also cause vomiting and diarrhea in both cats and dogs.

Scrumptious Food

  • We all know the holidays also bring lots of yummy goodies. As tempting as it may be, sharing these treats with our four legged family members can be very dangerous. NEVER feed your dog and/or cat table scraps.
  • Rich, fatty foods can cause pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) which can lead to extreme pain and hospitalization. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea can be signs of this, so let your guests know to avoid feeding your pets any table scraps.
  • NEVER give your pets any type of bone to chew on. Bones can splinter when chewed, causing cuts in the mouth, throat and G.I. tract. They can become lodged in the throat, leading to choking, or in the G.I. tract which would mean surgery and can be life threatening.
  • Certain herbs that we use to spice up our casseroles and other foods can contain resins and oils that can upset stomachs as well.
  • Onions and garlic are toxic too. Ingestion of either will destroy your pet’s red blood cells leading to anemia and also cause gastroenteritis. Garlic is considered five times more toxic than onions, but if your furry baby eats either, contact your vet as soon as possible.
  • Grapes and raisins are also toxic, even a small amount can cause acute kidney failure.
  • Coffee is also dangerous, whether it is ground or whole beans.
  • Nicotine and xylitol (found in sugar-free gum) can cause vomiting, elevated heart rate and blood pressure, and tremors. Your pet will need to be assessed immediately.
  • Alcoholic beverages are often a part of holiday festivities but need to be limited to humans only! Alcohol can cause bloating which can lead to the stomach twisting, which is deadly.
  • Along with alcohol, raw dough can contain yeast, also deadly to pets. Their body temperature is higher than ours which can cause the dough to rise in their stomach, causing bloating and the stomach to twist. Also when the yeast ferments, it results in the production of carbon dioxide and alcohol, which will lead to alcohol poisoning in your pet. Signs of alcohol poisoning are a drop in blood pressure, blood sugar, and body temperature.

Other Tips

  • The holidays can be stressful for us, but can also be stressful for our furry family members. To decrease this for them, try to keep their schedules as close to normal as possible. Take them for walks to help release any pent up energy.
  • If your pet is nervous around guests, or you will be hosting a party and don’t want your pet exposed to any of the opportunities for them to get into anything, offer them a closed, quiet room with food and water and a warm bed. You can try a Thundershirt® and DAP® or Feliway® spray and/or diffuser to help them stay calm, along with playing soft music in the background to drown out the noise from guests.
  • Make sure any guest you have over know not to give your pets table scraps!
  • With so many people in and out, make sure your dogs and/or cats have proper identification in case they escape. I.D. tags and/or microchip can save your pets life, so make sure all the information is up to date and accurate.
  • If your pet is overly anxious, talk to your veterinarian about a mild sedative.
  • Keep any emergency numbers close at hand just in case. These numbers need to include your veterinarians number, the number to the emergency clinic in your area, and the number to the Pet Poison Hotline – 855.764.7661.