The holiday season is officially upon us.  As you gear up for the jingle bell rock, there are a few steps to keep in mind to ensure a safe, happy holiday for your furry friend.

  1. Avoid holiday food dangers. Avoid giving your pet fatty, rich, spicy human foods that can cause digestive upset or even pancreatitis. Do not allow your pet to chew on bones that can splinter, cut the mouth, and even cause a digestive block. Keep your pets away from the table and unattended plates during meal times, secure lids on garbage cans, and steer them clear of toxic foods (chocolate, xylitol sweetened items, grapes/raisins, onion/garlic, etc.). Be sure to place your unattended alcoholic drinks where pets cannot get to them. If ingested, your pet could become weak, ill and may even go into a coma, possibly resulting in death from respiratory failure.
  2. Secure the tree. Make sure to securely anchor your Christmas tree so your pet doesn’t accidentally knock it over and injure themselves. Tree water often contains fertilizer that can be toxic to pets, so securing your tree will also prevent the water from spilling onto the floor. Trees bring with them the smells and appearance of the great outdoors and, for many pets, the urge to mark, climb or chew. Keep both breakable ornaments and small stuffed ones out of reach; they can easily be mistaken for a dog toy. Plastic ornaments are safer, especially on the lower branches, as they are more resistant to shattering if knocked off their perch by a batting kitty paw or wagging puppy tail. Ornament shards can embed in your pet’s mouth, skin and digestive tract.
  3. Wire with care. Keep wires, batteries, candles, glass and plastic decorations out of paws’ reach. A chewed wire can lead to a potentially lethal electric shock. Battery fluid can be caustic to the mouth and esophagus. Never leave lighted candles unattended, as these can be knocked over or catch fire to a bushy pet tail. Place candles on a stable surface out of your pet’s reach, and put the candle out if you leave the room.
  4. Skip the tinsel. The glimmer of shimmery tinsel is irresistible for many kitties. When ingested, though, this fun string shaped toy can become lodged in the digestive tract and cause serious digestive obstructions, severe vomiting, dehydration and possible the need for surgical removal.
  5. Avoid toxic holiday plants. Holly can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Mistletoe can lead to similar gastrointestinal symptoms as well as cardiovascular issues. Lilies can be fatally toxic to cats, causing kidney failure if ingested. Your local craft store will likely have beautiful, festive, artificial plant alternatives that will brighten your boughs without compromising your pet’s safety.
  6. Stuff your stockings with care. If you give your furry friend gifts this holiday season, make sure the presents are big enough to minimize a choking hazard and stick to toys that are labeled as indestructible, puzzle feeders and dog safe treats. Avoid bones that can break your pet’s teeth; as a general rule, if you cannot flake or indent the bone with your own thumbnail, it is best avoided. Opt for kongs that can be stuffed with healthy foods or chew treats that are designed to be safely digestible. Long, stringy things are a feline’s dream, but the most risky toys for cats involve ribbon, yarn and loose little parts that can get stuck in the intestines, often necessitating surgery. Surprise kitty instead with a new ball that’s too big to swallow or a stuffed catnip toy.
  7. Holiday party planning. If you plan to throw a holiday party, consider leaving a cute, festive note on the food table to remind guests not to share holiday treats with your pet. With all the people coming in and out of your door, it can be easy for a pet to sneak outside, so be sure to have your microchipand tag information up-to-date. Notify your neighbors that you will be having a party and to call you right away if they see one of your pets outside unattended. Give your pet their own quiet space to retreat to—complete with fresh water and a place to snuggle. Shy pups and cats might want to hide out under a piece of furniture, in their carrying case or in a separate room away from the hubbub.
  8. New Year’s noise. As you count down to the new year, please keep in mind that strings of thrown confetti can get lodged in a cat’s intestines, if ingested, perhaps necessitating surgery. Noisy poppers can terrify pets and cause possible damage to sensitive ears. And remember that many pets are also scared of fireworks, so be sure to secure them in a safe, escape-proof area as midnight approaches.

Keeping these steps in mind will ensure that you and your beloved pets will enjoy a safe, happy holiday season.