The holiday season is a magical time of year for many of us, but Christmas hazards for pets are something you’ll want to be aware of if you have a furry friend who will be joining in on all the festive fun.
While the best dog food and the best interactive cat toys keep our four-legged family members happy for a good 11 months of the year, once December rolls around, there are all sorts of new temptations that curious cats and canines will find hard to resist exploring.
From sparkling tinsel and twinkly lights to toxic plants and noisy holiday guests, it’s worth familiarizing yourself with the various holiday household dangers that have the potential to see your pet winding up in the emergency room.
With that in mind, we’ve rounded up a range of Christmas hazards and shared some simple steps you can take to ensure your beloved bundle of fluff stays happy, healthy and safe this holiday season.
1. Christmas ornaments
If you have a curious kitty or canine in your family, ornaments are likely to be the subject of much fascination - but they do pose some serious risks. Broken ornaments that have been swatted off the tree can cause injuries, including blockages if they’re ingested. For that reason, we recommend you hang breakable ornaments higher up the tree and wooden or other durable designs lower down. Alternatively, and for your pet’s safety, consider keeping the lower branches free from decorations altogether.
2. Toxic plants and flowers
While filling your home with holiday plants and flowers can be a great way to add some festive color and cheer, many are toxic to pets. These include:
Consuming even a small amount of these plants or flowers can result in anything from minor unpleasant symptoms, such as vomiting and diarrhea, to major, life-threatening toxicity. Keep poisonous plants out of reach of your pets and if you suspect they may have managed to nibble on something they shouldn’t, take them to a vet immediately. Check out our guide to the top 10 holiday plants poisonous to pets for more information.
3. Tinsel and ribbon
Cats and dogs love chewing on tinsel and ribbon, but these decorative items have the potential to obstruct, and even cut through, the intestines if they’re ingested. If you notice a bit of tinsel or ribbon hanging from your pet’s mouth, it’s important you don’t try to cut it or remove it yourself. Instead, seek the advice of your vet straight away as surgical care may be required. Exercise extreme caution with your fur friends around tinsel and ribbon and never leave them with these items unattended.
4. Holiday guests
While it may seem like an odd thing to put on a holiday hazards list for pets, the coming and going of family and friends can be a stressful time for many fur babies as it upsets their normal routine. The frequent ringing of the doorbell, increased activity, and having people around that wouldn’t normally be there can be unsettling - especially for cats. Be sure to keep your pet on their regular feeding and exercise schedule and create a quiet space that’s just for them that they can retreat to if they’re feeling overwhelmed.
5. Lights and wires
They may make the Christmas tree truly sparkle, but holiday lights and their accompanying electrical cords can result in serious injuries, such as shocks and burns, if your feline friend or canine companion chews through the wires. To protect your pets over the festive season, we recommend using electrical cord covers and ties wherever possible to make cables and wires less accessible.
6. The Christmas tree
The star of the show in most homes, the putting up and trimming of the Christmas tree signals that the holidays have well and truly begun, but while it’s a beautiful sight for us humans, it can pose a risk to our fur babies - especially curious kitties. To cat-proof Christmas trees, be sure to secure them in place using a sturdy stand or use a hook to tie the top of the tree to the ceiling to reduce the risk of it toppling over should your feline friend try to climb it or use it as a scratching post. Evergreen needles can also pose a threat if ingested and may require surgical intervention, so don’t leave your pet unsupervised around the tree.
7. Festive food
Can dogs eat turkey? It’s a question you may be asking if you’re trying to figure out which festive foods are safe to feed your fur friend. And while small amounts of some holiday foods are suitable for our pets to enjoy (including turkey), there are many others that need to be kept out of reach. These include chocolate, any items containing raisins, grapes, currants, and sultanas (such as mince pies), dishes with onions, chives, and garlic, and macadamia nuts. Consuming toxic foods can result in stomach upsets, pancreatitis, kidney failure, and other symptoms that require urgent medical care. Take a look at our guide to Christmas dinner for dogs for a list of safe foods and some yummy recipes.
They make the house smell wonderful and most of us don’t think of candles as being an immediate hazard to our pets over the holidays, but they definitely can be. Alongside the obvious fire risk that candles pose should your beloved bundle of fluff knock one over, curious cats and dogs will often go in for a closer look, which can result in severe burns if their face or paws come into contact with the flame or hot candle wax.
9. Toys and batteries
You may have a home filled to the brim with the best dog toys and cat toys, but if you have children in your family who are expecting a visit from Santa this year, chances are there'll be a lot of extra playthings lying about that your fur friend will find it hard to resist investigating. Be sure to keep toys and batteries off the floor and away from your pet to avoid them being chewed on. Many toys and board games, as well as batteries, contain zinc, which can cause renal damage if consumed.
We realize you probably aren’t planning on serving your cat or dog a glass of wine this holiday season, but alcohol lurks in a number of our favorite festive foods, and even eating a small amount can be lethal for pets. Make sure that all items containing alcohol (such as fruit cake, eggnog, and red-wine gravy) are kept well out of reach of your pet.
11. Christmas clothing
Ah yes, the Christmas jumper - a beloved item amongst many of us humans who also take great delight in dressing up our fur friends over the holidays. And while there’s nothing wrong with popping your dog or cat in festively-themed clothing, there are a few things worth remembering. Clothing items must not restrict your pet's movements, obstruct their eyes or ears, or have any dangling parts that could be chewed and swallowed. Most importantly, your pet needs to be comfortable in what they’re wearing - if they show any signs of stress, remove the clothing or accessory immediately.
Enjoyed this piece and looking for ways to spoil your precious pup this holiday season? Check out these delicious recipes for homemade Christmas dog treats.
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Kathryn is a freelance writer who has spent the past two years dividing her writing time between her two great loves - pets and health and wellness. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with one very mischievous Cocker Spaniel, drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and attempting to set numerous world records for the longest ever FaceTime calls with her family back home in NZ.
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