Winter Holiday Pet Hazards

The winter holidays are one of the best times of the year to get together and celebrate with family, including our furry family members. But amidst all the festivities, it may be easy to miss some of the hazards our pets face during the holidays. Here are some helpful tips to keep your pets safe over the next few weeks.

Take care with decorations

Decorating the house is one of the most enjoyable activities in the lead up to the holidays, but it’s important to make sure your decorations are as pet-proof as possible.

Electrical cords and strings of lights can cause burns or electrical shocks if chewed, so if possible, tape them down or secure them with guards. Always turn them off when leaving the house.

Tinsel can look beautiful on a tree, but cats in particular love its shininess and may be tempted to nibble on it. If ingested, tinsel can easily bunch up in the stomach or wrap itself around the intestines, causing serious and potentially fatal harm to your pet. Immediate veterinary attention is required if you think your pet has swallowed some tinsel.

Similarly, gift wrap and ribbons can be dangerous for pets, so don’t let your pet play with them, and make sure to put away any gift wrapping materials right after you’re finished with your wrapping.

Ornaments, while not poisonous, can have sharp edges if broken, which can cut your pet’s paws or cause punctures if eaten, so keep an eye on your pet to ensure they don’t get a hold of them. Cats are especially notorious for knocking ornaments off the tree, so ideally, you should avoid using easily breakable ornaments. If that’s unavoidable, put them high up on the tree, out of reach.

When it comes to New Year’s Eve celebrations, take care if you’re throwing strings of confetti. Just like tinsel and ribbons, they can cause problems if eaten. Noisy poppers can also hurt sensitive ears, and it’s well known that fireworks scare some pets, so make sure yours are secured in a safe space before the countdown begins. Check out our article on helping your pet deal with fireworks for more tips.

Holiday tree safety

If you have a holiday tree at the center of your celebrations, it’s important to follow these tree safety tips. First, sweep or vacuum up the needles regularly, as they can be harmful if eaten; they can also get stuck between your pet’s paw pads and cause irritation or pain.

Ideally, you should anchor your tree to the wall to ensure it can’t fall over and hurt your pet. This is particularly important if you have a cat that’s likely to try to climb the tree. Check out our other tips on how to make your tree as cat-proof as possible.

If you have a tree that needs watering, make sure there’s no access to stagnant water that your pet might try to drink from. Bacteria grows very quickly in tree water, and can cause serious stomach upsets for your pet.

Keep pets safe from lit candles

Take care with lit candles or menorahs to avoid singed paws or a burned tail – always place them out of reach of pets, and at least 12 inches away from anything flammable in case they do accidentally get knocked over.

If you have cats that like to climb, you should try to block their access, and make sure there are no high perches nearby that they could jump from to reach the candles.

Never leave your pets unsupervised whilst the candles are lit, and make sure they’re blown out before you head to bed.

Toxic holiday plants

In addition to trees, many of us will decorate with other holiday plants. Even a single lily leaf can be toxic to cats, while poinsettia, holly and mistletoe are also dangerous; they may cause vomiting, diarrhea, and breathing difficulties, or even be fatal. Whenever possible, choose fake fabric plants over real ones.

Be careful when it comes to sharing holiday food, as many of our leftovers are dangerous for dogs and cats.

Dangerous holiday foods

We all indulge over the holidays, and it can be tempting to give our pets an extra treat or two as well. But be careful when it comes to sharing holiday food, as many of our leftovers are dangerous for dogs and cats.

Bones and fatty meat are strict no-nos; bones can splinter and lodge in your pet’s esophagus, while even small amounts of fatty meat can cause pancreatitis, a potentially fatal disease. Other high fat foods, such as sufganiyots cooked in lots of oil, also pose risks for pancreatitis, so keep them well out of reach of pets.

Gravy typically contains lots of salt, and may also contain additives such as onion and garlic that are poisonous to our pets, so make sure to check the ingredients before adding a splash of gravy to your pet’s food bowl. Anything else containing garlic or onions, such as latkes, also needs to be avoided.

Alcohol is also off limits, as our pets just aren’t built to process it like we are. Plus, keep in mind that they’re a lot smaller than we are, so the risk of alcohol poisoning is greater. This is why giving your pet even a small sip of eggnog is not a good idea.

We all know not to give chocolate to our pets, but watch out for candies, too—lots of them may contain xylitol, which is toxic for dogs. Certain candies or cookies might also contain nuts, many of which are also poisonous or harmful for dogs, including macadamia nuts, almonds, walnuts, and pistachios.

Eating even a few grapes or raisins can lead to acute kidney failure in dogs, so be careful not to leave any lying around, and watch out for cakes, breads and stuffing mixtures that might contain them.

Raw yeast dough can also cause painful bloating and potential ethanol poisoning in pets, so ensure any dough is kept well out of reach when you’re baking.

The best way to keep your pets safe is to keep holiday food out of reach, clear away leftovers promptly, and make sure there’s no way for inquisitive pets to get into your trash.

If your pet does eat something they shouldn’t, contact your vet for advice ASAP. Warning signs of poisoning in pets include:

  • Sudden changes in behavior

  • Pain

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

You can also call the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline on (888) 426-4435 for advice 24/7.

Safe treats for your pets

If you’d like to treat your pet to something special over the holidays, consider buying or baking them “pet friendly cookies”. Many pet stores carry mixes that are easy to prepare, or stock decorated holiday snacks. There are also plenty of recipes for healthy homemade treats – check out these recipes from the ASPCA for some inspiration.

Prepare for all eventualities

Whether you’re traveling away from home or staying put this holiday season, make sure to look up a local 24/7 emergency veterinarian’s details and keep them handy, just in case. In an emergency, time is of the essence, and knowing in advance how to get to the emergency room could make that all-important difference.

And if your pet has any chronic conditions, be sure to take their health records with you on your travels.

We're here for you over the holidays

We're available for in-person exams and remote video consults, so you can get your pet the care they need, no matter where you are. Here are our holiday opening hours:

Thurs, Dec 24th 2020: 8am-2pm
Fri, Dec 25th 2020: Closed
Sat, Dec 26th 2020: 9am-5pm
Sun, Dec 27th 2020: Closed
Mon, Dec 28th - Weds, Dec 30th 2020: 8am - 6pm
Thurs, Dec 31st 2020: 8am-2pm
Fri, Jan 1st 2021: Closed
Sat, Jan 2nd 2021: 9am-5pm

Our medical team will be available 24/7 via our app over the holiday period, even on the days our practice is closed, so if you have a medical concern, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

We wish you and your furry family members a very happy and healthy holiday!

Our medical experts

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