Christmas with your Pets

Tis the season! 2020 has been a crazy year but this holiday season can still be the best yet. The holidays are a time when families come together to show gratitude and love for one another, and of course pets are included! Below you will find some important tips for including your pet safely this holiday season: 

Decorations: 

When we think of the holidays we tend to imagine festive decorations donning people’s homes, shopping centers, and even the streets! Decorating can be a great way to add a little extra cheer into your day-to-day life but it is essential to consider potential safety hazards for your pets. 

Tinsel. Our little furry friends can be so curious about the colorful displays we strew about our homes! A prime example would be tinsel. Tinsel is a common decoration in households with a Christmas tree but it can be dangerous for pets. The bits and pieces that fall off of a string of tinsel can be ingested by your pet and cause severe intestinal blockage. Try to avoid tinsel if possible, or make sure it’s in a space where your pet can’t get to it. 

String Lights. Along the same lines, holiday string lights can cause problems, too. If your pet finds some string lights within their reach and decides to give them a chew, they could be in for trouble. These lights can cause electric shock if your pet chews on them while they’re turned on or plugged in. Also, if you find your pet enjoys trying to climb the tree like a jungle gym, string lights and other string-like decorations could cause strangulation. 

Ornaments. Another thing to be cautious of with pets who like to climb is delicate ornaments. If Fluffy decides to scale the tree and knock down a bunch of glass ornaments, that not only leads to a mess but also a high risk for injury. Make sure to place any breakable ornaments high up in the tree or switch to plastic or wood decorations that are unlikely to break if dropped. Smaller ornaments and table-top decorations may pose a choking hazard, so be sure to place those out of reach as well!

Edible Decorations or Gifts. Many gifts during the holidays may include snacks or treats (for humans!) such as chocolate, nuts, cookies, meats, and so on. It’s common to want to decorate the Christmas tree with gifts underneath, but please be cautious of what gifts are being placed within your pet’s reach. It is all too easy for an innocent pet to get into a bag of chocolate left near the tree and end up needing emergency medical attention. 

Plants. A variety of plants are akin to the Christmas holiday, such as Holly, Mistletoe, Ivy, and Pine trees. While they may be beautiful additions to your home, they can cause some issues for your pets. Holly berries and Mistletoe may give your pet an upset stomach, while Ivy can cause an upset stomach and skin irritation with significant or prolonged contact. The needles that fall off of a pine tree may cause internal damage from their sharp tips. Try to keep plants out of your pet’s reach. 

Scents:

To add some extra spirit, some people may choose to use candles or scented plug-ins to make their homes smell like the holidays. While this may seem harmless, many fragrance options can be toxic for pets. Many air fresheners have volatile organic compounds1 (VOC) that cause irritation for humans and pets. You and your pet may experience eye, nose, throat irritation, headaches, lethargy, nausea, and some VOCs can cause cancer in animals. 

Signs of a toxic reaction to air fresheners in pets include coughing, sneezing, discharge from eyes or nose, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, lack of appetite, or withdrawing to a different room. Long term effects are also possible, with one study showing cats exposed to frequent air fresheners, incense, and cigarette smoke showed an increase in asthma2

Some of you may opt for essential oils to add pleasant scents to your space. Brands such as doTerra, Young Living, and Plant Therapy produce overall safe essential oils that can be used in place of an artificial air freshener. However, while these may sound like the perfect safe option, certain essential oils can be toxic to cats and dogs. It is always important to read about the oil you are wanting to use before using it, and if you are not sure call your veterinarian.

If your pet decides to cause some chaos and eat an air freshener or scented candle, call their veterinarian immediately. 

Food:

With any holiday, food is usually a staple in the celebrations. People gather around a common area to enjoy traditional foods while catching up with loved ones. It can be tempting to feed any furry friends that may be around, but it’s important to remember that human foods are not always good for our pets. 


The main foods to avoid giving your pets are:

  1. Chocolate: Thanks to the chemical theobromine, our little friends cannot enjoy chocolate. the way we do. Even with small amounts they may suffer from symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, tremors, seizures, or even death in severe cases. If your pet ingests a quantifiable amount of chocolate, call your veterinarian. 
  2. Dried vine fruits: Dried fruits such as currants and raisins can lead to kidney failure in dogs. These dried treats may find their way into a variety of holiday foods such as puddings and pies. 
  3. Onions: While onions are very common in cooking to add flavor they are not good for dogs. Immediate symptoms may include vomiting and diarrhea, but severe effects can include anemia from damage to red blood cells. 
  4. Macadamia Nuts: Macadamia nuts are a common find during the holiday season but they can lead to illness in pets. Dogs may exhibit lethargy, fever, or tremors. 

Foods that are okay for your pet:

  1. Turkey Meat (with no skin or bones)
  2. Green Beans
  3. Brussel Sprouts
  4. Carrots
  5. Peas
  6. Mashed Potatoes (without seasoning or butter)
  7. Sweet Potatoes
  8. Yogurt (without the ingredient Xylitol)

There are an abundance of ways to have your pet feel included this holiday season. Include them in your decorating process by having an ornament with their face or name, or by providing them with their very own stocking! Explore fun and creative ways to get the whole family into the holiday spirit while keeping your pets safe. Keep your pet happy and healthy this season by following the tips above! 


References:

1-2. https://www.petmd.com/dog/care/air-fresheners-and-pets