Trying to stay organized and on top of everything during the holidays can be overwhelming. In fact, you may have a list of your holiday lists—gift lists, food lists, holiday cleaning lists—to keep track. But, what about a list of pet holiday hazards to avoid? Pets can easily get lost in the shuffle during this chaotic time of year. While you are busy, your mischievous pooch may steal a turkey leg from the buffet, or your stealthy cat may swat a glass ornament from the tree. Pause for a moment from crossing items off your to-do list, and check Medina Veterinary Clinic’s list of holiday pet hazards to avoid.

#1: Christmas tree catastrophes and pets

While your tree may be so perfect that Martha Stewart would be jealous, your pet does not see a beautiful masterpiece. Instead, they see a sparkly jungle gym brought inside only for them.

Holiday pet hazards:

  • Unsecured trees — An unsecured tree may fall if your cat tries to climb the trunk, or your 60-pound puppy gets too excited. If the tree falls on your pet, they may be injured.
  • Tree stand water — The water in your tree stand, which is tainted with chemicals, bacteria, and mold, can make your pet sick if they decide to take a drink.
  • Breakable ornaments — Glass, porcelain, and other breakable ornaments are no match for your cat’s paws, or  your dog’s wagging tail. One swipe, and the floor will be covered in sharp shards that can cut your pet.
  • Tinsel and garland — Cats love shiny tinsel and garland, and may eat the shimmery strands, which can tangle in their intestines and cause a blockage. 
  • Pine needles — Indiscriminate dogs may chow down on pine needles, which can cause gastrointestinal problems ranging from mild irritation to a punctured intestine. 

Medina Veterinary Clinic’s (MVC) pet-proofing advice: Keep all tree-related hazards out of your pet’s reach. If you cannot trust your pet around your tree, keep them out of the room with pet gates, or surround the tree with an accordion-style gate when you cannot supervise them. 

#2: Decor debacles and pets

Holly, mistletoe, and amaryllis may make a beautiful centerpiece, but they are also toxic to pets, if ingested. Other holiday decor can be equally dangerous.

Holiday pet hazards: 

  • Toxic plants  — Top offenders include mistletoe, holly, amaryllis, and lilies, which are particularly toxic to cats. All parts of the lily plant, including the pollen and the water in the vase, can cause acute kidney failure.
  • Candles — A lit candle that is knocked over can burn your pet, or cause a fire.
  • Small figurines — Tiny Christmas village figurines or nativity characters can be eaten, and may cause an intestinal obstruction. 

MVC’s pet-proofing advice: Keep toxic plants out of your pet’s reach, or swap out fresh greenery with pet-safe, artificial versions. Replace real candles with battery-operated flickering lights, and place small objects on high display shelves. 

#3: Dinnertime disasters and pets

Your banquet table will likely sag with juicy turkey, glazed ham, rich side dishes, and sweet desserts. Your pet will be drooling along with your family members, and they won’t pass up an opportunity to steal a bite—or an entire turkey carcass. 

Holiday pet hazards:

  • High-fat meats — Greasy turkey skin and salty ham can cause pancreatitis, which can become life-threatening and require hospitalization. 
  • Savory side dishes — Many holiday dishes contain toxic ingredients, such as onions, garlic, chives, grapes, raisins, and macadamia nuts. 
  • Decadent desserts — While most pet owners know that chocolate is toxic—the darker the chocolate, the higher the toxin level—they may not be aware of xylitol’s threat to their furry friend. The sugar substitute is found in all types of sugar-free and keto-friendly foods, from peanut butter to gum. 
  • Cocktails — Pets are extremely sensitive to alcohol, and can develop alcohol poisoning if they lap up a spilled drink, or an unattended cocktail. 

MVC’s pet-proofing advice: While the table is loaded with delicious dishes, serve your pet a special treat, such as a pre-loaded, frozen Kong, in a separate room or their crate. You can also stuff a toy with unseasoned, pet-friendly foods, such as turkey breast, steamed sweet potatoes, green beans, and plain mashed potatoes. Don’t forget to subtract the calories from their normal meal. 

#4: Company calamities and pets

You may not be the only one who is less than enthusiastic about great-aunt Gertrude’s annual visit. Crowds, chaos, and loud guests can stress your pet, with disastrous consequences.

Holiday pet hazards:

  • Loud, touchy-feely guests — Well-intentioned guests may not understand that your pet does not appreciate being picked up and snuggled. Your stressed pet may hide, or defend themselves by biting a family member. 
  • Open doors — With all the comings and goings, your pet can easily slip through an open door, and become lost before you realize they are gone. 
  • Open suitcases and bags — Overnight guests may pack medications, sugar-free gum, small items, or other tempting “gifts” that your pet may ingest, which can cause a variety of problems. 

MVC’s pet-proofing advice: For small gatherings, share your house rules (e.g., no feeding your pet, or letting them outside) with all guests. For larger parties, your pet will be safer, and more comfortable, napping in a back room. Leave the television on to drown out party noise, and keep your pet occupied with a treat puzzle. Above all, ensure your pet is microchipped, in case they manage to slip out amid the holiday hubbub. 

We bet you had no idea our list would include so many potential pet hazards. After checking “pet-proof the holiday” off your list, you can safely enjoy the holidays with your pet. However, if your pet does manage to snag a forbidden treat, or get into holiday mischief, call Medina Veterinary Clinic for help.