The holidays are a magical time of year, but they’re also one of the most dangerous for your pet. Between the decadent food, the people coming and going, and a plethora of sparkly decorations, there’s a lot going on. It’s your job to ensure your pet makes it through the holiday season alive and well (and maybe only a couple pounds heavier than he started!)
Here are 12 holiday hazards your vet wants you to be aware of this season.
1. Holiday Decorations
Without a doubt, the biggest risk to your pet is all the new and unusual decor that’s likely to pop up in your home. From garlands to nutcrackers, be thoughtful about what you choose to put out. Is it a choking hazard? Can it knock over and shatter? Will your pet try to eat it? When in doubt, don’t leave it out.
2. Poinsettia & Cyclamen
While poinsettia is, as you’ve heard, toxic to cats and dogs, it’s only mildly so. Ingesting it is more likely to cause skin irritation and nausea than anything serious. What’s a far greater hazard is Cyclamen (also known as Persian violet), popular around Christmastime and especially poisonous to cats. The best solution if you have pets is to just buy artificial plants, TBH!
Tinsel is glittery and liquidy and wow did it just move by itself!? Your pet is going to play with it and odds are, he’s going to taste a strand (or thirty.) That’s no bueno. Strings of any length are dangerous if swallowed by pets because they can constrict the intestines. You don’t want to be in an emergency vet clinic’s ER on Christmas Eve, so skip the tinsel, k?
4. Getting Lost
Speaking of no bueno, why can’t Aunt Carole remember to close the darn door already? Your friends and family aren’t going to be as good about keeping your indoor pet inside as you are; expect that. Holidays are actually the most common days of the year for pets to be reported missing! Be sure your pet is microchipped before the holiday season hits, and if you need to, keep him in a room with the door closed when guests are going in and out.
5. Christmas Tree Water
Though it might seem gross to you, your pet probably sees the tree stand as just a Evergreen Flavored® bowl of water. It’s not the water itself that’s a hazard, it’s the chemicals used by the Christmas tree farm to preserve the tree’s leaves, and maybe even the solution you put in the water to keep your tree alive. Unfortunately the only way to mitigate this risk is to watch your pet like a hawk or, more simply, to put up an artificial tree.
6. The Christmas Tree Itself
Okay, so you went whole hog on the artificial tree – good for you! Now you’ve got to worry about your pet actually toppling the thing, particularly if you have a cat. Cats are known climbers and they’ll stop at nothing to scale your holiday masterpiece. If your pet is the curious type, consider a Charlie Brown tree no taller than your knees or just keep the door to the tree room closed unless you’re inside to monitor.
Both the American and European varieties of mistletoe are hazardous if eaten. When ingested, mistletoe can cause mild gastrointestinal distress, seizures, or worse, depending on the amount. The easiest way to keep it out of your pet’s reach is to avoid hanging any (real) mistletoe at all. If you simply must have the real thing, attach it firmly to the door jamb and go with less, not more.
The holiday season is when dishes go undone and the table goes uncleared. That’s fine…unless you have a pet. A particularly crafty animal is happy to scavenge abandoned plates for off-limits foods (onions), choking hazards (meat bones), and alcohol (wine.) Once you eat, be sure to clean and put away all the excess to keep your pet from chowing down.
9. Batteries & Cords
A shocking number of Christmas toys and decorations involve batteries and/or electricity; if you have kids, this number is tripled. Batteries themselves can be easily swallowed by pets and cords can pose an electrocution hazard. Be sure to keep these items out of reach and to always monitor your pet’s behavior with new objects.
Christmas lilies are inextricably linked to the holiday season. That said, they’re also one of the the most toxic plants for cats on the planet. Just one or two petals (or even just some water from the vase) is enough to send a cat into full kidney failure. If you have pets, don’t keep real lilies in the house. Simple as that.
11. Advent Calendar
You know that chocolate is toxic to dogs and cats…but what about the advent calendar? It may have slipped your mind how accessible these decorations make chocolate for pets. And if your calendar’s full of candy rather than chocolate? Know that sugar-replacement Xylitol is nearly as toxic. You went with small toys this year? Those are choking hazards. Just ditch the calendar, is what we’re saying.
How silly would you feel if your pet caught the house on fire? More than 15,000 home fires are caused by candles every year, and over 12% of all fires in December are caused by decorative candles. If you’ve got a curious pet, stick with electric candles to be safe. If you’re partial to real flames, just never leave one unattended when your pet is around. It’s not worth the risk.