Holiday pet safety

Household 3 min read

When you think of the winter holidays, you probably think of Christmas trees, holiday music being played everywhere, menorahs in windows, and much more. However, if you have a pet, the holidays can be fraught with worry, as well. Much like Halloween, with its scary costumes and overly sweet treats, the holidays can be a dangerous time for our four-legged family members. Below you’ll find the most common dangers and how to prevent them.

Christmas trees

One of the biggest risks with a Christmas tree is the temptation your beloved feline might feel to climb it. Even our canine friends may be tempted to explore a bit. The easiest solution is to tie your tree down to the ceiling or wall. It’s also important that you don’t add anything to the tree’s water, as animals may be tempted to drink it. Various additives—like aspirin, sugar, etc.—can be poisonous for animals.

Holiday decorations

Tree ornaments are a double whammy. If they break, the pieces can injure sensitive paws, but even whole, they can cause an intestinal blockage if swallowed. Homemade ornaments can be dangerous, too, if they’re made out of food items that are not meant for animal consumption. It’s best to consider where you place ornaments on your tree, to keep them out of reach if possible. At the very least, keep a close eye on your animals when they’re near the tree.

Tinsel poses an elevated risk, as well. It’s shiny and hangs off the tree, just asking to be played with. If swallowed, the tinsel can cause a blockage in the animal’s stomach, which can lead to an obstructed digestive track. This can lead to excessive vomiting, dehydration, and even death, in some cases. Your best bet is to avoid decorating your tree with tinsel.

Christmas lights carry the risk of electrocution if they’re chewed on. It’s important to keep an eye on your pets when there’s a Christmas tree in the house, and it would be wise to make sure you unplug the lights every time you leave the house.

Small toys like dreidels are easily swallowed, so make sure you keep an eye on them if your pet is around and safely hidden away when you’re not playing with them.

Decorative plants

Although the greenery that heralds the holiday season is beautiful to look at and delicious to smell, it poses a potential hazard to the four-legged creatures we share our homes with. Plants like poinsettia and amaryllis can be toxic to animals, as can holly, mistletoe, balsam, pine and cedar. Noshing on these types of greenery can lead to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. 


This is a fairly obvious danger—burning candles can not only burn sensitive noses and paws, but a knocked over candle can also cause a fire. Never leave lit candles unattended, and ideally, place all candles out of reach.

Food and beverage

Most pet owners are aware that certain foods can spell disaster for their animals, so it’s quite important to make sure that they’re not eating table scraps, especially around the holidays. We all know that chocolate is verboten, as well as anything made with xylitol, which can lead to liver failure and death. But most human food can cause health issues in animals.

Consumption of turkey and turkey skin can lead to a life-threatening condition known as pancreatitis. Anything fatty (like those mouth-watering sufganiyot) or spicy is too rich and difficult to digest. Grapes, raisins, and onions (watch out for those latkes!) are poisonous to pets, as well. And of course, caution should be taken to keep alcoholic beverages out of reach, as animals who drink even a small amount of alcohol can end up with liver and brain damage. If your pet is a scavenger, make sure to close all garbage lids securely.

Safety first = Lasting enjoyment

It can seem daunting when you see danger on every corner. But with a few simple precautions, and an awareness of your surroundings, you can easily prevent a holiday disaster. Happy Holidays!

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