It’s the most wonderful time of the year! With holiday get-togethers, festive decorations, and treats galore, there is much merriment to be had in December. For families with pets, celebrating the holidays can mean finding ways to enjoy the décor and festivities while ensuring the safety and comfort of animals in the home. Here are our top tips for celebrating the holidays safely with your furry family members!
Christmas Tree Décor
For those celebrating Christmas – particularly those with pets – putting up a tree in the home can present a number of challenges. From curious cats who like to climb, to sneaky dogs that may try to steal ornaments, families should consider their pet’s safety when it comes to decorating the tree. One particular type of tree decoration to avoid this holiday season is tinsel. This thin, shiny metallic string can be very intriguing to cats, but very dangerous if consumed. Tinsel can ball up inside of an animal’s intestines and cause dangerous, even deadly, blockages.
Water in the base of a Christmas tree can also pose a potential threat to dogs who may be tempted to take a drink. Chemicals are sometimes added to this water to keep a tree fresher longer, and this water can sometimes develop bacteria that is harmful if consumed. Make sure to keep your pets away!
Poinsettias, Holly, and Other Seasonal Plants
While poinsettias make for beautiful holiday décor, this red flower with bold green leaves is toxic if consumed by cats and dogs, and causes irritation to the mouth and induces vomiting. Holly, which is often used in garlands or wreathes, can also cause vomiting or diarrhea in cats and dogs. Because of the waxy appearance of this particular plant, it can be easily replaced with fake holly in decorative arrangements!
Mistletoe is another holiday favorite that is actually particularly dangerous if consumed by pets. Mistletoe, with its small rounded leaves and white berries, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, slowed heart rate, decrease in blood pressure, and even difficulty breathing. The faux version of this plant is also a great option to hang over your doorway for a holiday gathering – keep the cute tradition, and protect your pets!
Curious if a plant is safe to bring into a home with pets? Check out the ASPCA’s Toxic and Non-Toxic Plant Database. This can also be accessed on your mobile phone, so if you are out shopping for plants and want to check on a plant’s toxicity before even putting it into your shopping cart, you can!
Cords, Lights, and Candles
With more décor around the house than usual, pets may be tempted to play with, tug, or even chew on strand lights and loose cords. To avoid electrocution or fire, tuck away any cords connected to holiday décor and avoid low-hanging strands of lights towards the bottom of the Christmas tree. Some faux Christmas trees come with built-in lights, which solves the issue of having to string lights around the tree and risk chewing!
Pet owners should also be mindful of candles left unattended. Whether on a table, in a Menorah, or in a holiday display, wagging tails or curious paws could come into contact with direct flame or knock over candles causing burns or fire. Also, never leave your home while candles are still illuminated. Pet owners might consider using fake candles, which often look quite realistic and eliminate risk of fire!
Sweets, Treats, and Holiday Eats
Cookies, cakes, candies, champagne, and more—all of our favorite holiday treats, and all potentially harmful if consumed by our pets. When baking sweets, be sure to keep both the ingredients and final products out of reach of pets. Sugar, chocolate, and anything sweetened with xylitol can be toxic to our pets. Consider preparing a Kong or frozen treat for your pet to enjoy while you bake—keeping them busy and distracting them from what you’re working on.
Similarly, alcoholic beverages shouldn’t be left unattended during get-togethers or holiday celebrations, as alcohol consumption can be harmful to pets and cause vomiting, discomfort, and even seizures.
Family in Town for the Holidays
The holiday season means parties, visits from family members, and get-togethers with friends. When it comes to having large numbers of people in your home or visits from unfamiliar relatives, don’t forget to make sure that your pet has a quiet, comfortable place to retreat to if the hustle and bustle gets to be a bit overwhelming. A crate in another room or a comfy bed in a dark, quiet space where your pet can access to get away from the commotion will help them feel comfortable and safe.
It’s also important to remember that while you may be always checking your surroundings when opening/closing doors to the outside, your friends and family may not. Remind your guests that cats and dogs may try to sneak out of a door that’s left open. A sign near the door also helps during busy parties to let your guest know that your furry friend is a door-dasher!
What’s more fun than wrapping presents and putting them under the tree? Some pets may think wrapped gifts are fun too, especially if they are tied with bows or ribbons. Cats may be attracted to strings attached to gifts and attempt to chew them, which could lead to internal blockages and expensive veterinary bills. Be mindful of leaving wrapped gifts under the tree with accessories that may be attractive to your pets.
Additionally, when wrapping gifts, make sure to clean up any string or ribbon scraps from your wrapping station so that inquisitive pets don’t find them!
The Weather Outside is Frightful
With snow falling and temperatures dropping, going outside with our pets becomes more of a challenge. Pet owners should be on the lookout for things like chapped paws, snowballs stuck in fur, and residue from road ice left on feet, legs, and bellies. Here’s where you can learn more about cold weather pet safety.
As always, if you ever see a pet without adequate shelter or you feel is in danger from being left outside, give our Humane Law Enforcement Department a call at 585-223-6500 to report suspected animal cruelty.
Have a happy and safe holiday, pets and people!