Santa Claws is Coming to Town: How to Keep your Pet Safe this Christmas

Christmas is coming—evidenced by the overnight transformation of the seasonal store displays from everything Halloween to everything Christmas, an explosion of Hallmark Christmas movies on TV, and round-the-clock Christmas music on the radio. Love them or hate them, most people know many Christmas songs, so why not use those songs to remind yourself how to keep your pet safe this Christmas.

“O Christmas Tree:” Tree safety for pets

As you decorate your tree and hum “O Christmas Tree” under your breath, ensure you have taken the following safety precautions:

  • Secure the tree to the wall, doorway, or ceiling — If your dog gets the zoomies, or your cat feels the need to practice their tree-climbing skills, an unsecured tree could topple over and injure your pet or damage property. 
  • Use deterrents to keep pets away from the tree — Place aluminum foil around the tree base, purchase pet scat mats, or use a baby gate to keep pets a safe distance from the tree.
  • Select pet-safe tree decorations — Salt dough ornaments can cause deadly salt toxicity when ingested, and shattered ornaments can cut pets or people. Home-made popcorn garland and tinsel can cause a life-threatening gastrointestinal (GI) obstruction if a pet tries to snack on some popcorn and swallows the string, or finds the shiny tinsel irresistible. To be safe, stick to non-food, non-breakable ornaments, avoid tinsel and garlands, and consider decorating only the top half of your tree if you have a mischievous pet.

“I’ll Be Home for Christmas:” Preventing lost pets

While the song “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” may put you in the holiday spirit, you don’t want to be desperately hoping that a lost pet will make their way home again. Holiday celebrations may look a little different this year due to COVID-19, but if you do end up having people over to your house, consider keeping your pet confined to a room or crate while guests are coming and going, to prevent pets sneaking out the door. The same principle holds true when you are retrieving the mountain of Christmas present-containing boxes from your porch. Also, ensure your pets are wearing a collar with identification tags and that they are microchipped, to increase the odds that escapees can be returned safely to your home.

“Deck the Halls:” Decoration safety for pets

If you are blasting “Deck the Halls” while you get in the Christmas decorating groove, remember to be careful with the following:

  • Holiday plants — Ingested mistletoe or holly can cause GI upset, and poinsettias may cause mild mouth or stomach irritation in pets. Lilies are extremely dangerous for cats, as they cause kidney failure when licked, chewed on, or ingested.
  • Candles — Stick with fake candles or keep real candles out of reach to avoid a curious or clumsy pet being burned, or starting a fire.
  • Ribbons, strings, or garlands — Pets can be injured or sometimes strangled when they get tangled in ribbons, strings, or garlands, which also pose a GI obstruction risk if ingested.
  • Potpourri — Some liquid potpourri types may cause tremors, chemical burns, and difficulty breathing if licked by an unsuspecting cat. Dogs are less severely affected, but can still get burned.

“Now Bring Us Some Figgy Pudding:” Christmas food safety for pets

If you are singing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and decide you want some figgy pudding, don’t share any with your pet—this dish often contains raisins, which are toxic to pets. Also, avoid letting your pet consume other toxic food or drinks, such as onions, garlic, grapes, chocolate, macadamia nuts, xylitol-containing sweets or candy, coffee, or alcohol. When your pet turns on the charm at the table, don’t slip them turkey skin, ham, or other high-fat foods, which can cause GI upset or pancreatitis (i.e., dangerous pancreas inflammation). If your pet does sneak a snack of a potentially toxic food, immediately call Acorn Animal Hospital, Pet Poison Helpline, or ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for advice.

“Here Comes Santa Claus:” Gift safety for pets

“Here Comes Santa Claus” may be popular on the radio, but Santa had better not come early and leave presents unattended under the tree if the house has furry occupants. A mischievous pet could easily open all the presents before the rest of the family wakes up, help themselves to the contents, and end up eating something toxic or dangerous. To be safe, have your pet settle down for their long winter’s nap in a room far away from the one St. Nicholas visits.

Our Acorn Animal Hospital team could serenade you with “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” but we aren’t great singers, so we will stick to providing your furry friend nothing but the best veterinary care. If your pet gets themselves in a sticky situation over the holidays, don’t hesitate to give us a call.