Updated October 31, 2023
Tis the season! The holidays are a time when families come together to show gratitude and love for one another, and of course, pets should be included!
However, not all holiday decorations are built with safety for pets in mind. If you have a cat or dog in your household, you’ll need to make smart decisions when it comes to decorations, food, and even the scents you use.
Below you will find some important tips for working around potential holiday pet safety hazards.
When we think of the holidays, we tend to imagine festive decorations donning people’s homes, shopping centers, and even the streets. This can be a great way to add a little extra cheer to your day-to-day life – but it is essential to consider the potential safety hazards associated with holiday decorations.
Let’s take a look at some of the decorations that could jeopardize holiday pet safety.
Our little furry friends can be so curious about the colorful displays we strew about our homes! A prime example would be the Christmas tree tinsel. The bits and pieces that fall off of a string of tinsel can be ingested by your dog or cat and cause severe intestinal blockages.
Try to avoid tinsel in your Christmas trees if possible, or make sure it’s in a space where your pet can’t get to it. This is especially true if you have a curious pet (likely a cat) that’s likely to mess with Christmas tree decorations.
Along the same lines, holiday string lights can be dangerous decorations, too. If your dog or cat 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 while they’re turned on or plugged in.
This is a common issue for cat owners. Kitties often enjoy climbing things like Christmas trees, which means they might be able to reach high-up string lights and other electric decorations. Beware of the risk of strangulation, as well as electrocution hazards if the lights wind up in your pet’s mouth.
Another thing to be cautious of with pets who like to climb is delicate ornaments. If your cat 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 fragile glass 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 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.
A variety of seasonal plants are akin to this festive time of year, such as holly, mistletoe, ivy, and pine trees. While these common holiday plants 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. Additionally, pine needles cause internal damage from their sharp tips.
Try to keep any toxic plants out of your pet’s reach, or better yet, opt for other holiday decorations that pose no risk.
To add some extra spirit, some people may choose to use candles or scented plug-ins to make their homes smell great during holiday parties. While this may seem harmless, there are many toxic fragrances for dogs and cats.
Many air fresheners have volatile organic compounds (VOC) that cause irritation for humans and pets. You and your pet may experience eye, nose, throat irritation, headaches, lethargy, or nausea, and some VOCs can even cause cancer in animals.
Signs of a toxic reaction to air fresheners in pets include…
- Discharge from eyes or nose
- Lack of appetite
- 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 asthma.
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 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 safety of the oil you want to use beforehand, and if you aren’t sure about its risks, call your veterinarian.
If your curious pet accidentally gets into scented products, call their veterinarian ASAP.
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 pets that may be around, but it’s important to remember that people food isn’t always good for our dogs and cats.
The main foods to avoid giving your pets are:
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 immediately.
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.
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.
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.
Tasty treats that are okay for your pet:
- Turkey meat (with no skin or bones)
- Green beans
- Brussel sprouts
- Mashed potatoes (without seasoning or butter)
- Sweet potatoes
- Yogurt (without the ingredient Xylitol)
Keep Your Pet Safe This Holiday Season
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, but never forget about holiday pet safety. This should be a fun time of year for everyone, even our furry friends, so pay attention to the safety tips above.