Enjoy the Holidays, and Make Sure Your Pets Do, Too

Cats at ChristmasHoliday festivities are reaching their peak, with Christmas one week off and New Year’s Day another week after. Amid the hustle and bustle, and the fun, take a moment to consider pet safety.

The holidays can be especially difficult for dogs and cats and other pets, tempted by foods that wreak havoc on their digestive systems and access to potentially harmful decorations, not to mention the bright lights and loud noises of holiday parties.

The American Veterinary Medical Association reminds pet owners that nothing can spoil good cheer like an emergency trip to the veterinary clinic.


  • Chocolate is toxic to dogs and cats. The toxicity can vary based on the type of chocolate, the size of your pet, and the amount they ate, but it’s safer to consider all chocolate off limits for pets.
  • Other sweets and baked goods should also be kept out of reach. An artificial sweetener called Xylitol — often found in baked goods, candy, and chewing gum — has been linked to liver failure and death in dogs.
  • Turkey and its skin can cause a life-threatening condition in pets known as pancreatitis.
  • Many foods that are healthy for people are poisonous to pets, including onions, raisins, and grapes. During the holidays, table scraps can be especially fattening and hard for animals to digest.
  • Yeast dough can cause problems for pets, including painful gas and potentially dangerous bloating.


  • Christmas trees can tip over if pets climb on them or try to play with the lights and ornaments. Consider tying your tree to the ceiling or a door frame, using fishing line to secure it.
  • Some cats and dogs may mistake the pan at the base of a Christmas tree as a water bowl. Stagnant tree water is a breeding ground for bacteria, and pets could end up with nausea or diarrhea if the water isn’t kept fresh or hidden.
  • Tinsel and other decorations can be tempting for pets to eat but can require surgery.
  • Flowers and festive plants can result in an emergency veterinary visit. Amaryllis, mistletoe, balsam, pine, cedar, poinsettias, and holly are among the common holiday plants that can be dangerous to pets. The ASPCA offers lists of plants that are toxic to dogs and cats.
  • Never leave a pet alone in an area with a lit candle.


  • All pets should have access to a comfortable, quiet place inside if they want to retreat. Make sure your pet has a room or crate somewhere away from the commotion, where your guests won’t follow, that it can go to anytime it wants to get away.
  • Watch the exits. Even if your pets are comfortable around guests, make sure you observe them closely, especially when people are entering or leaving your home. A four-legged family member may make a break for the door.
  • Identification tags and microchips reunite pets and owners. Make sure your pet has proper identification with your current contact information.
  • Clear the food from your table, counters, and serving areas when you are done using them, and make sure you place the trash where your pet can’t reach it. That includes anything used to wrap or tie meat.

(Photo: Flickr/Chinako Kaneko)

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