Holiday Pet Safety Tips

Pet Health and Safety  •  Pam Karkow  •  Tuesday, October 05, 2021

If you have seen National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, you know the scene by heart.  The family cat disappears into the tree, Chevy Chase notices the lights have gone out, plugs the tree back in, and....the rest is history.  This may be a funny scene to most, but the hazards of the holiday glitter and glow are very real.  Holiday foods, decorations and wrappings, and the general chaos can make this season a tricky one for pets.

Food

  • ‘Tis the season for fatty foods.  When dogs and cats eat foods their bodies are not used to, it can lead to pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is often triggered by the consumption of fatty table scraps.  Do yourself a favor and keep your dog and/or cat on his regular diet for the holidays.  Remind your guests that your dogs shouldn't be fed human food!  No one wants to clean up after a sick pet after all the dishes are done.  

  • It can be tempting to let your dog gnaw on a turkey bone after the bird has been picked clean of its meat.  Don’t.  Certain bones can lacerate of obstruct your pet’s insides.

  • Keep poisonous foods away from pets! Onions and onion powder will destroy your cat or dog’s red blood cells and can lead to anemia.  Grapes and raisins contain a toxin that can lead to kidney damage in dogs and cats, and chocolate can be fatal to pets even in small doses.

  • Food wrappings and garbage are also things to pay particular attention to during the holidays.  Aluminum foil and plastic wrap can cause intestinal obstructions, and eating from the garbage?  Yuck.  But what’s gross to us may seem like striking gold to our dog.  Eating out of the garbage can lead to a very sick pet, so make sure to keep an eye on your garbage can, or better yet, keep it out of reach of your pets.

  • Consider cooking pet-safe foods and treats to include your cat or dog in the holidays. 

Decorations and Wrappings

  • One year our dog ate some ribbon.  When we saw it again later--you can infer--I could’ve washed it off and reused it.  Don’t worry, I didn’t.   But, sometimes pet owners aren't as lucky as we were.  Ribbons and wrapping paper can be very dangerous if ingested by your cat and dog, and with foreign body ingestion surgeries costing around $2,000, it's easier to be proactive and clean up immediately after you unwrap gifts.

  • My sister-in-law’s dog once decided to “unwrap” a gift under the tree.  It smelled good because it was full of chocolates!  Luckily, she found Winnie chomping on the chocolate before Winnie had eaten very much of it, and she ended up being fine.  But, you should make sure gifts that contain food or candy are in a place where your dog or cat cannot access them.

  • Holiday trees and cats are kind of like oil and water. If you have a live tree, cover your water reservoir so your cat does not drink out of it.  Do not use tinsel or edible decorations on your tree. Tinsel can cause intestinal obstruction and strands of popcorn are just too tempting for pets.

  • Check cords and light strands for frayed or damaged areas.  

  • See this Poisonous Plant Guide for information on plants commonly used as decorations during the holidays, that can be hazardous to your pets.

Tips for a Happy Pet

  • Make sure your pets have plenty of water.  The hustle and bustle of shopping and entertaining can make it difficult to stay on your pet’s routine.

  • Allow your pet adequate exercise and play time to keep their energy levels down. No one wants to be knocked down by an overly exuberant dog or have a cat zooming underfoot!

  • Quiet time for your pet is a must with the more frequent comings and goings that are typical during holiday seasons.  

  • Consider giving pet-friendly holiday gifts to your cat or dog! This way, your pet will have something to entertain them while you're doing acitvities that are less pet-friendly like trimming the tree!


Have fun, be thankful, and be safe this holiday season.  And remember, for the unexpected mishaps the season tends to bring regardless of how careful a pet owner you may be, pet insurance is one of the greatist gifts that can give you the peace of mind you need to sit back and enjoy the season.

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