10 Tips for a Pet-Safe Holiday

Dec 18, 2020

10 Tips for a Pet-Safe Holiday

The holidays evoke happiness and excitement, as you decorate, bake, and prepare for the most wonderful time of year. We love the holidays too, but our AMVS team has a unique perspective, as we treat many pets who take advantage of the season’s chaos, and get into mischief when their unsuspecting owners are busy. From cats who eat tinsel to dogs with pancreatitis, we treat a variety of holiday injuries and illnesses. To prevent a trip to our emergency room, protect your furry family member with these tips.

#1: Don’t share toxic foods with your pet

Although your holiday gatherings will likely look a little different this year, your meal will undoubtedly still be the star of the show. But, don’t give in to your pet’s pleading eyes as you pull the turkey from the oven, or sit down to your holiday feast. Many ingredients you use in your favorite dishes can be downright dangerous to your pet, including:

  • Garlic, onions, shallots, and chives
  • Chocolate
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Raw yeast dough
  • Alcohol 
  • Sugar-free foods containing xylitol

If your pet eats food with a toxic ingredient, contact your family veterinarian or our 24/7 emergency department immediately.

#2: Prevent pancreatitis in your pet

High-fat foods, such as turkey trimmings, buttery mashed potatoes, and gravy, can inflame your pet’s pancreas, and land them in the hospital for the holidays. Your pet’s body is used to digesting pet food, and the sudden change to a high-fat meal can send their fat-digesting pancreas into overdrive, causing the release of a surge of enzymes that irritate the pancreas and lead to body-wide inflammation. Pets with severe pancreatitis require hospitalization with intravenous fluids and medications for recovery. In some cases, pancreatitis can become fatal.

#3: Prevent a Christmas tree cat-astrophe 

You have likely seen “cute” photos of cats peering from Christmas tree branches, and “funny” videos of dogs toppling trees, but your tree crashing down will be anything but cute, or funny. If you have a curious cat or rambunctious dog who is likely to cause trouble, anchor your tree to the ceiling or a window frame with heavy fishing line or wire, to prevent a tree cat-astrophe. 

#4: Skip the tinsel to protect your pet

Cats love sparkly playthings, and silvery, streaming tinsel strands hanging from your tree’s branches can be irresistible. But, if your cat eats tinsel, their intestines can bunch up around the linear foreign body, causing an obstruction, or wearing a hole in the intestinal wall. For your cat’s safety, leave off the tinsel, and hang shiny, unbreakable ornaments instead. 

#5: Don’t let your pet drink the tree-stand water

The water in your Christmas tree stand may be full of toxins, including chemicals you added to keep your tree looking fresh, fertilizers that leach out of the trunk, and bacteria and mold that grow in the stagnant water. If your pet drinks from the tree stand, they can become sick, so keep the stand covered, or place a pet gate around the tree to prevent access. 

#6: Place breakable ornaments out of your pet’s reach

Save room on the higher branches for your cherished family heirloom ornaments, which are probably too fragile to withstand your cat’s curious paws. Breakable ornaments can also be knocked off low-hanging branches, and glass shards can cut your pet. Also, place salt dough ornaments out of reach so your pet cannot steal and eat one, to prevent salt toxicity. 

#7: Hide electrical cords from your pet

Puppies and kittens notoriously chew on electrical cords, which can cause burns or electrocution. Tuck cords from all tree lights, holiday village houses, and other lighted decorations out of sight to protect your curious pet. 

#8: Keep toxic plants away from your pet 

Fresh pine garland and bright poinsettias may complete your holiday decor, but many popular holiday plants are toxic to pets. Cats, in particular, like to chew on greenery, and may become seriously ill. Although some plants, such as poinsettias, cause only mild irritation, others, such as lilies, can cause acute kidney failure and death. Do not let your pet eat these varieties:

  • Lilies
  • Pine
  • Holly
  • Cedar
  • Balsam
  • Mistletoe
  • Amaryllis
  • Christmas cactus
  • Poinsettias

#9: Give your pet a party passPet safety during the holidays

If your pet is not a fan of loud gatherings or strangers, they may prefer to sit out your holiday gathering. Although your party likely will be smaller this year, with only a few family members, small parties can become rowdy, too, especially if children are invited. Instead, let your pet spend the evening in a quiet room with soft music, their favorite toys, and a long-lasting treat, such as a stuffed Kong. 

#10: Ensure your pet's microchip information is up to date

As you load the car with holiday goodies, or your guests pile in with armfuls of gifts, your pet may take advantage of your distraction—and the open door. Or, if New Year’s Eve fireworks scare your pet, they may bolt and become lost. To increase the chances of a happy reunion, ensure your pet’s microchip information is current. If your pet doesn’t have a microchip, schedule an appointment with your family veterinarian, who can place one during a quick office visit. 

We hope you have a safe and healthy holiday with your pet. But, we are here every day of the year, including holidays, should your pet get into mischief, and your family veterinarian is unavailable. Contact us if your dog eats holiday leftovers, or your cat gets tangled in tinsel.