It’s that holiday time again, when families gather, decorate, celebrate and make cheer. 

Your pet can participate safely with you and your family if you remember these safety tips for pets during the holidays:

Keep your pet’s water bowl full during the holidays.  Please be sure your pet does not drink the Christmas tree water.  Stagnant tree water is a breeding ground for bacteria, and your pet could end up with nausea or diarrhea should he drink from the stand. Worse, it may contain chemicals that are used to keep the tree fresh.

Flamed Candles:  Please do not leave lighted candles unattended. Pets may burn themselves or cause a fire if they knock candles over. Be sure to use appropriate candle holders, placed on a stable surface. And if you leave the room, put the candle out!

Anxious Pets:  During family gatherings, it might be best to keep pets confined if they are overly anxious.  You can help your pets by providing them a safe space to retreat to that is away from the noise and activity. Make it inviting with a bed, their favorite toy, food, and water (and for cats, be sure to include a litter box).

Fireworks:  For those dogs that are afraid of the loud booms of fireworks from New Year’s Eve celebrations, please talk to one of our veterinarians about medication to help treat their noise aversion.  Keeping your pet inside and creating a safe space will also help.  A calming wrap or vest that causes light pressure may comfort your pet, too.

Use Pet Safe Decorations:  Not all holiday plants are safe for pets.  Mistletoe, holly, Christmas trees and real pine garland can be problematic if eaten (or nibbled on) by your dog or cat.  Please keep these items out of reach, use doors or gates to keep pets away from trees or use a spray that discourages chewing.

Holiday plants that can be harmful to pets include:

  • Amaryllis
  • Azaleas
  • Chrysanthemums
  • Evergreens
  • Holly
  • Ivy
  • Juniper
  • Lily
  • Mistletoe

While poinsettias are widely thought to be toxic to dogs and cats, ingestion may cause irritation to the mouth and stomach and result in vomiting, but they are generally considered low in toxicity.

Christmas Trees

Christmas trees can present a unique problem for pets.  Cats love to climb, and cats are drawn to Christmas trees with all the sparkling lights and ornaments. Puppies and dogs can be enchanted by the ornaments, lights, gifts, and tree water.  Make your Christmas tree less exciting to your pet by avoiding tinsel, which could also cause serious internal trouble if eaten, and keeping shiny glass ornaments out of reach. Secure your Christmas tree with a sturdy base and secure it to your wall to minimize the risk of it falling over. An exercise pen or gate will keep them out of trouble and ensure you don’t come home to a disaster or a sick dog.  Again, please be sure your dog does not drink the tree water. 

Electric Lights:  With all the extra lights plugged in everywhere, your pet is at risk for electric shock and your home is at risk for a house fire if they nibble on a cord. Keep your pet away from cords by blocking their access to them or covering the cords with PVC piping to protect them from your pet’s inquisitive teeth. Rubbing cords with a bitter spray can help as well.

Holiday Food:  You can give treats to your pets during the holidays. Rather than feeding them table scraps of rich food, feed them treats made specifically for dogs/cats or raw veggies like carrots or broccoli, cooked unseasoned and skinless white meat turkey, or plain pumpkin (not the seasoned pie filling).

Feeding your pet high-fat table scraps (like turkey/ham drippings or side dishes with butter) can put your pet at risk for stomach upset or worse conditions such as pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is an extremely painful condition that can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite and loss of energy.  It can also create an expensive stay for your pet at the emergency hospital. Be sure your family and guests do not feed your pets any holiday food unless approved by you. 

Holiday Food to Avoid:

  • High-fat foods
  • Any food that contains garlic, chives, or onions (like mashed potatoes, stuffing, or Hanukkah latkes)
  • Raisins or currants commonly found in fruitcake, holiday kugels, and rugelach
  • Xylitol, a popular sugar substitute
  • Unbaked bread dough
  • Alcohol
  • Don’t forget–NO chocolate!

Other Holiday Hazards

Remember that your pet will be interested in everything.  Small toys, loose batteries, board games and purses and bags will be very exciting to your pet.  Be sure to keep all these items out of reach of your pet to minimize the risk of ingestion of anything that may be toxic to your pet.

All of us at Animal Medical Center at Fort Sheridan wish you and your family best wishes for a wonderful and pet-safe holiday season.  If you have any questions about holiday decorations and your pet, give us a call. 

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