Navigating Holiday Hazards: A Quick Guide to Keeping Pets Safe and Happy

Nov 28, 2023

As the festive season approaches, our homes transform into glittery wonderlands filled with twinkling lights, sparkly decorations, tasty treats and the warmth of holiday cheer. Amidst the merriment of the holiday season, it’s crucial to think ahead about how this holiday transformation affects our furry family members and how all of this glittery goodness is perceived by them. Read on for some practical tips on how to manage the holiday season while at the same time ensuring your pets are safe from avoidable dangers inherent in food, decor, travel and stress. 

Dietary Indiscretion

The holiday season often brings an array of delectable treats and feasts for the senses. However, certain foods can be harmful to our pets. Fatty foods, baked goods, and those containing chocolate, xylitol, raisins, macadamia nuts, bones and yeast dough are all potentially dangerous for pets. If your pet takes part in the festivities, be sure to tell any guests not to feed your pets. If you see your pet begging for food, searching the trash or sneaking scraps from the floor, be prepared to move them to a quiet room away from the temptation of food. Awareness is crucial. Know what your pet has access to during holiday celebrations so that you can remove any dangers proactively. 

Dangerous Decor

Our festive holiday decorations, while magical for humans, can harbor hidden dangers for pets. Take special care with the following common holiday decorations:

  • Christmas tree lights and decorations that are electric can harm pets if they’re chewed. To prevent electrical accidents, make it a habit to always unplug decorations when they’re not in use. And keep a close eye on your pet when these decorations are plugged in. You can also try things like “bitter apple” spray to deter pets from chewing on cords, but there’s no substitute for close supervision. 
  • Wrapped gifts and ornaments may break or contain small pieces that can be ingested causing intestinal issues. Tinsel can be very problematic if ingested as it can lead to serious intestinal problems including obstructions – potentially requiring surgery. 
  • Holiday plants such as mistletoe, lilies and holly can be toxic to pets with poinsettias posing a milder threat. Some water additives for fresh Christmas trees are also toxic, so pets should never have access to Christmas tree water. 
  • Potpourri and fragrance plug-ins may emit substances that are harmful to animals. And while the scent may be pleasant for you, our pets’ noses and senses of smell are much more sensitive than ours and fragrances can be very irritating to our furry friends. 
  • Snow globes are an often-overlooked hazard which can contain highly toxic chemicals like ethylene glycol. It’s safer to skip these whimsical decorations to protect your pets from accidental exposure and potentially deadly consequences. 

Pets Suffering from Travel-Related Stress

Any change in routine can be stressful for pets – particularly travel. If you’re traveling with your pet this year, one helpful solution to try are calming aids (like Feliway) for those pets who would prefer not to travel. Traveling by car with a skittish pet? If time allows, you can try to desensitize your pet to car rides gradually. Start with very short rides (a minute or two) and then very gradually increase the time in the car to make your pet more accustomed and comfortable with the environment of your vehicle. Be sure to keep your pet secure in your vehicle with harnesses and carriers that are made for travel.

If you’re traveling long distances, have your pet’s health records on-hand (such as their current vaccine status, tags and prescribed medications). Take this precaution seriously as different states have different requirements and regulations. If you find that you need to visit a veterinarian while traveling, the vet’s office will want to know that your pet has seen a vet recently and has the required vaccinations. Remember that should you need to, it might be difficult to obtain veterinary records during the holiday season when many veterinary offices are closed. Without documentation, the attending veterinarian won’t have a full picture of your pet’s health status.

Hazards & Stress from Human & Pet Visitors

The holidays are oftentime synonymous with visits from friends and family – both the human and furry varieties. To reduce the risk of accidental poisoning, ask your guests to secure their medications so that curious pets can’t obtain them. Taking this precaution will reduce the risk of accidental ingestion and help ensure a worry-free celebration for everyone. 

Guest pets visiting your home? When hosting pets from other households, be sure to have a separate area set up to keep your pets and the visiting pets separated unless the interaction is carefully supervised to prevent potential conflict and additional stress.  

Proactive Steps for a Holiday-Happy Pet

Taking a proactive approach to avoid holiday dangers can pay dividends for you and your pets – it just takes a little planning. Consider the following proactive measures before your guests arrive or before you set out to your holiday destination:

  • Stress-related colitis –  For pets who suffer from stress-related colitis, talk to your veterinarian about starting probiotics before the holidays begin to reduce symptoms. 
  • For nervous and/or anxious pets – Consider investing in a Thundershirt, which is a tight-fitting garment that mimics swaddling your pet. It’s a natural way of calming nervous pets by providing gentle pressure that soothes anxiety. 
  • Quiet, safe spaces – Create a safe space for your pet that is out of the way of the holiday bustle. If you’re visiting someone else’s home, try to coordinate this with your host before you arrive. Your pet’s crate or a quiet, separate, and secure room are great places for your pet to find solace from all of the activities. 
  • Holiday trash – If you’re hosting, be sure to take the trash out regularly to remove hazards from curious pets. 

As you embrace the holiday season with your loved ones – including your cherished pets, remember that a little planning and forethought can go a long way. By gaining awareness of potential hazards and implementing some of these easy, precautionary measures, you can increase your chances of a safe and stress-free holiday season for both you and your pets. We wish you and your family a wonderful holiday season filled with love, warmth and the comforting companionship of your furry family members.