9 Holiday Hazards for Pets

The holidays are a busy and exciting time, but your pets are not usually in the forefront of your mind in this season. While many pets are adaptable to the holidays, and can find them exciting just like you do, there are some hazards you will want to look out for to make this season safe and fun for everyone. 

1. Seasonal Plants

Unfortunately, most popular plants of the season are off-limits to cats and dogs. Poinsettias, holly, ivy, and mistletoe are all moderately toxic to animals if ingested. Even pine needles can pose problems if ingested, such as upset stomach or even perforations. Keep toxic plants out of reach, watch for missing leaves or berries, and opt for artificial whenever possible.

2. Fires and Candles

Warm fireplaces and the glow of candles evoke strong holiday memories. For playful and curious pets, however, they can be a serious risk. Keep candles out of reach where a pet cannot knock them over or brush past. Always use a secure fireplace screen. Snuff candles and douse fireplace embers completely before leaving your pet unattended with them.

3. Decorations

Most decorations look like toys to pets and should be used with caution and supervision. Tinsel and other shiny, stringy ornaments should be watched closely or avoided with cats, as it can cause internal blockages if ingested or tangle the cat. Be wary of small ornaments that can be swallowed completely and especially any edible ornament such as popcorn strings or dough ornaments. Choose durable ornaments over glass that can be broken and leave shards. Artificial snow is also toxic and should be avoided.

When you are decorating, keep your pet occupied with a favourite treat or new toy. Have a beautifully decorated house with pets and enjoy the holidays knowing your family is safe. 

4. Gifts

What are the holidays without brightly coloured bows and presents wrapped under the tree? Ensure your pet’s safety by keeping certain gifts out of sight until the special day.

Edible gifts such as those containing chocolate, candies, or baking should not be accessible. Chocolate, coffee, liquor, and other “people” foods can be toxic to pets (even in small quantities). Keen noses might also pick up on scented candles and soaps and mistake them for food, so keep these gifts tucked safely away.

Ribbons and bows, as well as wrapping paper can cause harm if ingested by your pet. Ribbons can bind your pet, contain wires that can puncture, or cause blockages if ingested.

Decorating Hazards for Pets - Presents

5. Cords

Electrical cords are everywhere around the holidays. Keep cords away from chewing pets by taping them to walls, using cord protectors, or by hiding them behind furniture, under carpets, or under a tree skirt. Taste deterrents or indoor repellents can keep pets from chewing cords and away from trees or other decorations.

6. Stress

Holiday stress affects more than just people. Believe it or not, stress can actually get to your furry family members, too. Keep things as consistent as possible to ease stress on your dog or cat. Amidst your busy schedule, keep pet mealtimes and exercise as regular as you can. Be careful how much time your pet is spending at home alone. If you can't make it home to play with, exercise, and feed your pet on certain days, ask a friend or hire a dog-sitter to do just that. Is your house a whole lot busier than usual? Make sure your pet has a quiet place to retreat to. Even if your pet likes to be the center of attention, you may want to give him some mandatory quiet time so he can relax. 

Lastly, make sure you schedule some time just with you and your pet. Whether it's a lovely walk in the snowy streets or cuddling on the couch, your pet will appreciate that you take the time just for them - even when you're busy. 

7. Trees

The tree is the staple of every holiday decorator, but it presents hidden risks to your pet. If you have a live tree, make sure treated water is out of reach of thirsty pets, as it can cause uncomfortable gastro-intestinal side effects such as nausea or vomiting. Watch that your dog or cat is not ingesting pine needles that can puncture and cause stomach discomfort.

Keep your tree stable and sturdy, making sure it is also away from any nearby furniture that could be used as a ladder.

Automated spray repellants or other training aids are products that may help you safely keep your dog or cat away from the tree or other holiday decorations. Sometimes, a simple fix such as placing aluminum foil at the base of the tree, or hanging a jar of coins (or other noisy knicknacks) on the lower branches where your cat may climb can deter curious cats. Cats hate the feel of foil on their paws and don't like the sound of rattling coins. 

Decorating Hazards for Pets - Christmas Tree

8. Holiday Foods

Food is a big theme around the holidays, but that can spell out trouble for your pet if you aren't keeping close watch. Many of the most toxic human foods for pets are common during the Christmas season, such as chocolate, liquor, nuts, and high fat foods such as gravy and pastries. High fat foods, such as many table scraps that include gravy or fried foods, can cause pancreatitis, which is a common diagnosis over the holidays and can result in death if not treated promptly. Cooked bones, while not a human food, per se, are also a related hazard to pets over the holidays. Cooked bones, in comparison to raw bones, are brittle and can cause intestinal blockages or perforations if ingested. 

Avoid open bowls of food and don't leave food, boxes of chocolate (particularly chocolate liqueurs), alcohol, or leftovers where they can be accessed by a curious pet. Keep garbage secure, both indoors and out, for your pet's safety and others'. 

9. Visitors

During the Christmas season, you are likely to have at least a few more people around your house than usual. Make sure that any new visitors get prepped on pet rules and the safety risk of disobeying those rules. Guests who are giving table scraps to pets are usually well-meaning, but it's important that they know why the rules are there. Keep close watch on any new children around your pets. Often, kids misinterpret pet cues and are unaware of risks involved. Watch your pet closely. When under stress or frightened, pets that are normally even-tempered can become aggressive. 

Unless you know them and are able to keep a close watch, say no to visiting pets. New visiting pets can add stress to an already anxious pet, which could result in aggressive behaviour or acting out. 


Enjoy the holidays with your pets and stay safe!