Safe ways to celebrate with your pets

As the holidays are upon us, we wish to remind all pet guardians and owners some ways to keep your companion animals safe and happy during the holiday season. Here are some guidelines to consider during these festive times.

Christmas Trees

Anchor trees securely. Cats climbing and dogs with wagging tails can knock over your tree. Try to place decorations above paw height and use shatterproof or unbreakable ornaments. Clean up pine needles frequently as they are indigestible and can be toxic when eaten. Keep tinsel, angel hair, ribbons and garland out of pets’ reach! These items are particularly attractive to cats and if swallowed, they can block the intestines, which often require surgery to remove. Prevent your pet from drinking water in the tree stand if you have added preservative chemicals. Also, stagnant water can contain bacteria, which may lead to vomiting and diarrhea when ingested. Cords for lights should be made inaccessible to pets – especially from chewing puppies and exploring kittens.


Holiday plants

Unfortunately, many holiday plants can be poisonous for your pet, such as holly, mistletoe, hibiscus, poinsettias, several varieties of lilies, ornamental pepper and Christmas rose. Some plants may cause vomiting and diarrhea, while others can cause organ failure and death. Ask your veterinarian if you have specific questions, and remember to keep these plants well out of your pet’s reach – including birds.

Gifts and toys

Decorate packages sparingly. Although ribbons and string make your holiday packages look festive, they pose significant dangers to pets if ingested. Don’t place ribbons or decorations around your pet’s neck or on their collars. Although it may look great, they are at risk of choking or strangling. Looking to stuff your pet’s stockings? Choose gifts that are safe by avoiding small toys or toys with small parts that could be chewed off.


Don’t give bones to your dog or cat. Poultry bones easily splinter and can cause serious injury, while bone fragments can cause intestinal blockages or lacerations. Do not give your animals chocolate. Chocolate contains theobromine, a chemical that can be deadly to cats, dogs and rabbits, though not harmful to humans.

Holiday leftovers may give your companion severe indigestion and diarrhea. This is particularly true for older animals that have more delicate digestive systems and nutritional requirements. Avoid rich fatty foods, uncooked meat, fish, poultry and dough, grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, tea and coffee as they can cause problems ranging from digestive upset to organ failure and death. Keep all leftover food and garbage out of reach in a closed secure container.

Alcohol and tobacco products can be fatal to pets, if ingested. Keep cigarettes, cigars, tobacco, nicotine gum and patches out of the reach. Empty ashtrays frequently since cigarette butts contain about 25% of the total nicotine in a cigarette. Clean up glasses after holiday parties. Dogs are often attracted by the sweet taste of drinks, especially eggnog.

For a quick guide to the most common harmful foods and products for your pets, please read our article on this subject by clicking here.

If you suspect your pet has ingested a potentially poisonous substance, call your veterinarian immediately or the Pet Poison Helpline (800-213-6680). The best thing you can do for your companions over the holidays is to keep them on their regular diet and give them special animal treats.

Noise and stress

Shy animals can get stressed with the hustle and bustle of festive guests. Provide your pet with a quiet place to retreat during busy holiday times. Dogs and especially cats get overwhelmed and over-stimulated just like kids do. Make sure your companion has a room of his own with fresh water, a few toys, and a place to snuggle.

The holidays are both a wonderful and a busy time. In addition to these tips, it’s also very important for your pet’s health and stress level to maintain as much as possible his normal daily routine during this festive period and make sure to spend quality time alone with him every day.

We wish you happy and safe holidays to you, your family and your pets!