The most wonderful time of year can be one of the most confusing times of year for your pet—decorations that look like toys, trees in the living room, and copious amounts of food. Your pet may not know why it’s all happening, but that won’t stop them from joining the festivities, which, unfortunately, can be dangerous for curious pets when owners are distracted by party preparations, baking, and mingling with friends. Our team at Acorn Animal Hospital shares a pet’s perspective on the holidays and ways to keep them happy and safe this holiday season.  

#1: Where your pet’s mind goes when you bake for the holidays

“Why are the humans making so much food, and will they be serving 

me in my dog bowl, or is it more of a serve-your-self kinda thing?” 

Where there’s food, there’s usually a pet waiting for something yummy to drop. Your pet has only one thing on their mind as you put on your holiday apron and pull out the baking ingredients—and it’s not whether those savory snacks contain pet-friendly ingredients. Tasty food is part of what makes the holidays great, but many human treats can make your pet sick. These common holiday food ingredients can be toxic for pets:

  • Chocolate — All chocolate—especially dark and baker’s chocolate—can be deadly to pets.
  • Fatty foods — Fatty foods, like butter, oils, and grease, can cause pancreatitis.
  • Onions and more — All parts of the onion plant are toxic. Garlic, shallots, leeks, and chives, of the same plant family, are also harmful. 
  • Grapes and raisins — Ingesting only one of these can cause kidney failure in your dog.
  • Xylitol — This natural sweetener and sugar substitute used in many sugar-free baked goods is highly toxic to pets.

Always supervise your pet in the kitchen, and don’t leave your culinary masterpieces unattended—especially if your pet counter surfs. While human goodies are off-limits, you can find healthy pet treat recipes for your furry helper. Your pet can enjoy a delicious treat, and you don’t have to worry about them getting sick. 

#2: What your pet really thinks about your holiday decor

“What did I do to deserve all these fun, new sparkly toys, 

and why didn’t I think of bringing the tree inside?” 

Holiday decorations are in the eye of the beholder—you see tinsel, while your pet sees a giant, shiny snake they must hunt down and defeat. Pets love to investigate unfamiliar additions to their environment—especially when they are shiny, fuzzy, and make fun noises—but they can get into trouble when curiosity gets the best of them. 

  • Christmas tree — Secure your tree properly so your pet can’t knock it over, and limit your pets’ access to the tree if they chew on any branches. Ingested pine needles can puncture their intestinal tract and cause an obstruction.
  • Holiday plants — Many popular floral arrangements contain plants and flowers toxic to pets. Opt for pet-friendly flowers when decorating for the holidays, and keep plants up high and out of your pet’s reach. The following common holiday plants are toxic for pets:
    • Holly
    • Mistletoe
    • Evergreens
    • Lilies
    • Azaleas
    • Poinsettias—although not poisonous, ingested sap can cause gastric upset
  • Candles — Excitable tail-waggers and burning candles don’t mix. Always supervise your pet around candles, and blow out lit candles when leaving the house.
  • Tinsel and ornaments — Your playful pet may find stalking tinsel “snakes” entertaining, but ingesting holiday decor can be dangerous. Tinsel and ornaments can not only cause stomach upset, but also can get wrapped around your pet’s intestines, and require surgical intervention. Ingested glass can cause internal bleeding, so hang your most delicate ornaments high up on your tree. 

Deck the halls to your heart’s content, but do so with your pet in mind, to avoid a holiday pet emergency.

#3: Why you never have leftovers when your pet comes to the holiday party

“Where can I find a party guest with a full plate of food balanced 

on their lap and a weakness for sad puppy dog eyes?”

Holiday parties are a fun way to connect with family and friends, but the new faces and commotion can lead to trouble for pets. Use the following tips when planning your holiday get-togethers, to ensure your pet’s safety and wellbeing:

  • Curb counter surfing and table scraps — Delicious, unattended food is a counter-surfing pet’s dream. Because so many holiday foods are unsafe for pets, food dishes should always be kept out of your pet’s reach. Also, ask guests not to feed your pet table scraps—no matter how cute they look. 
  • Provide a safe space — Before a party, ensure your pet has access to a safe space away from the excitement. Distract them with background music or the television, and plenty of engaging toys. 
  • Consider medication — If your pet is highly anxious, discuss the benefits of anti-anxiety medication with your veterinarian.
  • Watch the exits — Keep an eye on your pet when people are entering or leaving your home, because they can easily slip out unnoticed through an open door when the family is distracted. If your pet does get loose, a microchip and proper identification can help you get them home safely and quickly. Ensure your pet is microchipped, your current contact information is registered with the data company, and their collar is comfortably secure, with current identification tags.

#4: When you think there’s no way your pet would eat that, they prove you wrong

“Why are the new tennis balls the humans

 hung on the tree for me so crunchy?”

Our pets keep us on our toes and, while preparation can help you avoid potential hazards, accidents are still possible. Keep the 24-hour Pet Poison Helpline number handy, and call your veterinarian or the helpline immediately, if you suspect your pet has ingested a toxic substance. Signs your pet may have ingested a toxic item include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Tremors
  • Accelerated heart rate

Our excitable pets keep us constantly entertained. Let’s return the favor by keeping them safe and healthy—during the holidays and every other day. Contact our Acorn Animal Hospital team to schedule your pet’s next wellness exam. Happy PAWlidays!