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Tips for a Pet Friendly Holiday Season

4 min read

By Debbie McGauran

The holidays are a wonderful time of year when we celebrate with loved ones and make cherished lifetime memories. Food, festivities and family are all ingredients for a happy holiday, but they are also ingredients that can play havoc with your pet’s health. Especially for cats and dogs whose innate curiosity can lead them into trouble or worse. Taking a few simple precautions can mean the difference between a truly joyous holiday season or one marred by grief and tragedy for your pet.

Let’s take a closer look at how you can protect your pets during this festive season…


1. Beware of Unstable Trees

Cats and dogs are naturally inquisitive creatures. That tall Christmas tree with the twinkling lights and glittering ornaments hanging from every branch will attract pets like wasps to a sticky bun. They can’t resist. Cats will amuse themselves for hours, batting ornaments off the tree and then chasing them across the floor. You may even find yourself walking past your tree only to have a cat swat you from the middle branches! Cats love to climb!

Your dog may be the one to chase your cat up your tree. For all of these reasons it’s vital that you make sure the base of your tree is safely secured. If not, you may find your beautifully decorated tree toppled onto the floor with broken ornaments and all. The last thing you need is the tree falling on a child or damaging furniture. If your pets are extremely rambunctious you may even need to secure your tree to the wall.

Cats Christmas

2. Beware of Tinsel

Tinsel is dangerous to your cat or dog. In fact, this shiny Christmas decoration can be deadly if eaten by your pet. It can develop into what is referred to as a severe linear foreign body. This occurs when you pet ingests a stringy substance such as tinsel or yarn which then wraps around the base of the tongue or becomes anchored in the stomach.

As the intestine contracts, the linear foreign body can saw through tissue or cut off blood flow completely. This can have catastrophic consequences for your pet which may not be remedied even with expensive abdominal surgery.

Cats Christmas Tinsel

3. Beware of Edible Ornaments

Gingerbread, sugar cookies, popcorn garland and foil wrapped chocolate ornaments make sweet and inexpensive decorations. Chocolate is especially dangerous. The darker the chocolate, the more methylxanthines it contains. These substances are toxic to dogs.

If your dog eats chocolate they may vomit, become hyperactive, or experience diarrhea, excessive urination, heart arrhythmias, tremors or seizures. Dogs can smell food a mile away and will take the ornaments or garland right off the tree or even jump up to reach the higher ones. It’s best not to decorate your tree with edibles if you have pets in your home.

Dogs and Ornaments

4. Beware of Toxic Christmas Plants

The pine needles from your Christmas tree, if ingested can play havoc on your pet’s health. They can irritate the sensitive lining of their mouth, causing wounds or infection. Your pet may experience vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy or trembling. Holly is another common holiday plant which can cause gastrointestinal upset if ingested by your dog or cat. It can cause diarrhea, vomiting and depression. Mistletoe is even more dangerous.

In addition to gastrointestinal symptoms, it can cause difficulty breathing, erratic behaviour, hallucinations and death if eaten. Lastly, poinsettias can cause discomfort to your pets if the leaves are ingested. They may cause irritation to the mouth and stomach, or occasional diarrhea but do not cause death.


5. Beware of Holiday Lighting Hazards

Holiday lights come in many beautiful twinkling and hanging varieties such as icicle, garland, netting, curtain and rope. Curious pets will be drawn to them. Do you have a cat or dog that likes to chew?

If they bite the cord that plugs the lights into the wall, they may receive an electrical shock. This can lead to burns or even death — not to mention a fire hazard if you’re not home at the time of this occurrence.

Dogs Christmas Lights

6. Beware of Candles

Candles should be kept in hard to reach places so that your pet does not knock them over and get burned with hot wax or create yet another fire hazard in your home. Candles should never be left burning when you’re not home.

Even if you just stepped out for a few minutes. Taking these simple steps during the holidays can help make this time of year safe and memorable for you and your pets for all the right reasons.

Christmas Cat

Debbie McGauran


Debbie has been a registered nurse for over 25 years with experience in geriatrics, medicine, surgery and mental health. For the past four years, she has practiced as a crisis nurse in the ER. Debbie lives on a farm with her family, two dogs, a cat, and four horses.

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