The team at WesVet Animal Hospital believes nothing says “holiday” like a countdown, so we present the top 12 pet holiday hazards to look out for this season: 

#12: Hang the stockings with care—small toys, candy, and pets

Hang stuffed stockings where pets can’t reach. Candy wrappers and small toys are choking hazards, or can cause a gastrointestinal blockage. Sugary sweets can lead to hyperactivity and a spike in blood glucose, while sugar-free gum and candy may contain toxic xylitol

#11: Uh-oh, the mistletoe—holiday plants and pets

You may choose to hang these plants where you can see them, but ensure they are beyond your pet’s reach. Several popular holiday plants are severely toxic to pets, including all parts of mistletoe and holly, lilies, daffodils, and amaryllis (belladonna). Consider replacing toxic foliage with artificial flowers or non-toxic plants

#10: Make your grocery list and check it twice—pet-toxic ingredients

Traditional holiday cooking and baking includes many foods that are dangerous for pets. Keep curious pets out of the kitchen during meal prep, and avoid feeding table scraps. Pets should never consume foods containing chocolate, raw meat, xylitol, raisins, grapes, onions, garlic, or macadamia nuts, eat yeast dough, or drink alcohol. Instead, indulge your pet with a safe, delicious holiday Kong or cat-friendly Licki-mat

If your pet has ingested a toxin, immediately contact WesVet Animal Hospital or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center

#9: If a tree falls in the living room—Christmas tree safety

Pets don’t care if your Christmas tree is real or artificialthey can cause equal mischief with both. Ensure your tree is secure in its base, to prevent tipping when curious paws come to investigate. Cover the tree base to prevent pets from drinking the tree water, which can contain bacteria, mold, and fertilizer. Hang breakable ornaments on high branches, or consider displaying them elsewhere. 

#8: Menorah manners—candles and pets

Flickering flames attract curious pets who may try to catch them with their paws or mouth, causing painful burns or accidental fires. Supervise pets at all times around burning candles and fireplaces. Consider replacing decorative votives with battery-operated flameless candles, but still keep them out of your pet’s reach.  

#7: Leave the trash talk to family members—dumpster-diving pets

Pets know that when they’re not welcome at the table, the trash can offers a 24/7 smorgasbord—especially on a holiday when the garbage is bursting with bones, greasy wrappers, kitchen twine, and other discarded delights.

Keep trash cans closed and behind a barrier—for known offenders, consider temporarily relocating the trash can to your garage or porch. Dumpster diving commonly leads to dangerous intestinal obstructions, gastritis, and pancreatitis. 

#6: Too much of a good thing—pancreatitis in dogs

Overindulged dogs can suffer from acute pancreatitis, a painful and dangerous inflammatory condition triggered by fatty or rich foods. When holiday hand-outs include greasy turkey trimmings and foods laden with butter, cream, and salt, your dog’s pancreas is attacked by its own digestive enzymes. Pancreatitis treatment requires hospitalization, and severe cases can be life-threatening. Common signs include acute vomiting, fever, and lethargy.

#5: Shocking light displays—holiday lights and pets

Cats are mesmerized by twinkling, dangling light strands, and may mistake them for toys. Decorative light wiring is often poorly insulated, and can deliver a dangerous electrical shock when chewed. Battery-operated lights may expose pets to chemical burns. If your pet’s eyes light up for Christmas lights, keep them away from decorated areas.

#4: House rules—holiday guests and pets

If you’ll be having company, ensure everyone is aware of your pet. Ask guests not to feed your pet from their plate, to keep doors and gates closed, and to keep purses and luggage off the floor so that items, such as their medications, sugar-free gum, candy, and mints, stay out of your pet’s reach Also, never allow children to interact with your pet without adult supervision.

#3: Holly-jolly or stressed and depressed?—holiday anxiety in pets

The holiday hustle can overwhelm pets. Create a safe retreat for your pet for when things get too stressful. Select a quiet and cozy area where they won’t be disturbed, and include a comfortable bed, toys, water, and a litter box, so your pet can stay as long as they choose. For severely anxious pets, ask your veterinarian if medication can help.

#2: Hey, Scrooge—don’t give meat bones to pets

Never give your pet a bone to chew. Cooked bones splinter and can cause painful lacerations, internal bleeding, and intestinal blockages that require life-saving surgery. Satisfy your pet’s need to chew with a stuffed Kong or dental treat, and keep your holiday at home—not the veterinary hospital.

#1: The nightmare before Christmas—runaway pets

Many pets go missing during the holidays. With so many comings and goings, pets can easily slip through an open door or gate, and their absence may not be noted for hours. Ensure your pet has a well-fitting collar, updated identification tags, and a registered microchip, so you can be contacted when your lost pet is found. If your pet is a flight risk, confine them to a secure and quiet area during the festivities.

These pet hazards can make the holidays seem more scary than merry. But, by identifying and addressing potential pet-safety issues, you can ensure peace on earth—or at least your little corner—this holiday season. If you have additional questions, or you want to microchip your pet, or discuss their anxiety, contact WesVet Animal Hospital