The most wonderful time of the year wouldn’t be nearly as special without our pets, but the festive hustle and bustle comes with hazards that can leave you saying, “Bah Humbug.” Our  Animal Internal Medicine and Specialty Services team offers four tips that will help ensure your pet stays happy, healthy, and safe this holiday season.  

#1: Know which holiday foods can harm your pet

From cookie exchanges and sweet treats stuffed in stockings, to elaborate family meals and hot chocolate by the fire, food plays a predominant role in our holiday celebrations—and where there’s food, there’s usually a pet waiting for something yummy to drop. You may be tempted to slip your pet some sweet treats while you bake, but these common holiday food ingredients can be toxic for pets:

  • Chocolate — All chocolate—especially dark and baker’s chocolate—can be deadly to pets.
  • Fatty foods — Fatty foods, like butter, oils, and grease, can cause pancreatitis.
  • Onions and more — All parts of the onion plant are toxic. Garlic, shallots, leeks, and chives, of the same plant family, are also harmful. 
  • Grapes and raisins — Ingesting only one of these can cause kidney failure.
  • Xylitol — This natural sweetener and sugar substitute used in many sugar-free baked goods is highly toxic.

However, your pet doesn’t have to miss out on the goodies. Look for healthy pet treat recipes to make for your favorite furry holiday helpers—but keep those cookie platters separate, or your human cookie recipients may be in for a less than savory surprise. 

#2: Supervise your pet around holiday decorations

Dazzling lights and cheery holiday decor are beautiful, but consider your pet when decking the halls. Pets love to investigate unfamiliar additions to their environment, and can get into trouble when curiosity gets the best of them.

  • Christmas tree — Secure your tree properly so your pet can’t knock it over, and limit your pets’ access to the tree if they chew on any branches. Ingested pine needles can puncture their intestinal tract and cause obstruction.
  • Holiday plants — Many popular floral arrangements contain plants toxic to pets. Opt for pet-friendly flowers when decorating for the holidays, and keep plants up high and out of your pet’s reach. The following common holiday plants are toxic for pets:
    • Holly
    • Mistletoe
    • Evergreens
    • Lilies
    • Azaleas
    • Poinsettias—though not poisonous, ingested sap can cause gastric upset
  • Candles — Always supervise your pet—especially excitable tail-waggers—around candles, and never leave a candle lit when leaving the house.
  • Tinsel and ornaments —To your pet, these small, shiny adornments can look like fun toys, but ingesting them can be dangerous. Tinsel and ornaments can not only cause stomach upset, but also can get wrapped around your pet’s intestines and require surgical intervention. Ingested glass can cause internal bleeding, so hang your most delicate ornaments high up on your tree. 

#3: Plan holiday parties with your pet in mind

Holiday parties are a fun way to connect with family and friends, but not all pet personalities enjoy large groups of people and lots of commotion. Use the following tips when planning your holiday get-togethers, to ensure your pet’s safety:

  • Provide a safe space — Some pets may prefer to stay in a kennel or quiet room throughout the party, while others may enjoy mingling. Either way, your pet should have access to a safe space away from the excitement. Turn on music or the television for background noise, and distract your pet with plenty of engaging toys. 
  • Consider medication — Contact your veterinarian if your pet is highly anxious, to discuss the benefits of anti-anxiety medication.
  • Watch the exits — Your pet may be comfortable around large groups of people, but keep an eye on them when people are entering or leaving your home. While you’re busy with greetings and goodbyes, your pet can easily slip through the door unnoticed. If your pet does get loose, a microchip and proper identification can help you get them home safely and quickly. Ensure your pet is microchipped, your current contact information is registered with the data company, and their collar is comfortably secure, with current identification tags.
  • Curb counter surfing — Delicious, unattended food is a counter-surfing pet’s dream. Because so many holiday foods are unsafe for pets, food dishes should always be kept out of your pet’s reach. 

#4: Prepare for holiday pet emergencies

Preparation can help you avoid potential pet hazards, but unforeseen accidents are still possible. Keep the 24-hour Pet Poison Helpline number handy, and call your veterinarian or the helpline immediately, if you suspect your pet has ingested a toxic substance. Signs your pet may have ingested a toxic substance include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Tremors
  • Accelerated heart rate

We hope you and your pet have a pawsitively wonderful holiday season, but If you have an unfortunate pet emergency, contact our Animal Internal Medicine and Specialty Services 24-hour emergency facility for world-class care.