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Tips for Pet Safety During the Holiday Season

Tips for Pet Safety During the Holiday Season

Tis the season for family visits, holiday parties, festive decorations... and unfortunately, many risks for your beloved pet. November and December give us lots of reasons to celebrate, but it’s important that we don’t get so caught up in the party that we forget about pet safety. From avoiding unhealthy foods to handling holiday stress to keeping dangerous decorations out of reach, here are the most important holiday pet safety tips to keep in mind this year. 

Holiday Food Safety Tips for Your Pet

Food is a major part of any holiday celebration and many holiday feasts will present a handful of risks for your pet’s health. It’s important to keep a safe handle on your dog or cat’s diet, especially during the holidays. You can do this by:

 

  • Knowing what foods are dangerous for your dog or cat
  • Locking up the trash can
  • Keeping your pet’s diet consistent

 

Know the Dangerous Foods Your Pet Can’t Eat

There are a number of fruits and vegetables that are dangerous for dogs and cats to consume. Other processed foods that are popular for humans during the holidays tend to have high amounts of fat, sugar, and salt that are unhealthy for canine and feline bodies. Be sure you are up to date on the most common unsafe foods for pets – including chocolate, artificially sweetened foods, and meat with bones that might present a choking hazard – and make sure all of your house guests are on board with keeping your pet protected. (Hint: If you’re looking for a tasty holiday meal just for your doggo, check out this pet-friendly menu!)

Lock Up the Holiday Trash Can

Even if you watch your pet carefully throughout your holiday celebrations, you might discover them shoulder-deep in the trash can when you wake up for a midnight snack. With all the yummy holiday cooking going on, even the most well-behaved pets might be tempted to explore the garbage. Your trash can is best locked up and behind a cabinet. If this isn’t possible, try to take out your trash before bedtime or before leaving the house, so your pet isn’t tempted to get into it. 

Keep Your Pet’s Diet Consistent During the Holidays

Consistency and routine are key in the health and wellness of your pet. Their quality of life depends on a reliable, stable diet that meets all of their nutritional needs and keeps them full and energized. There are likely to be many changes in routine in the holidays, but feeding times and snacks should be as consistent as possible. 

If you travel during the holidays, bring your pet’s food and food bowl with you so you don’t have to worry about maintaining their routine and it’s all ready to go when you arrive at your destination. If you’re busy with family visiting from out of town, make sure they know your pet’s routine if they want to help out – including feeding times, snack and treat rules, and portion sizes. 

How to Handle Common Holiday Stressors for Pets

For most of us, the holiday season means more people and more travel – both of which can be stressful on us and on our pets. Whether it’s separation stress from your absence or overwhelm from dinner parties and visitors, here are some holiday stressors for pets and how to address them. 

 

A dog laying on the floor in front of three packed suitcases

 

Separation Stress During the Holidays

Many people will be traveling to see family over the winter and this might mean some time away from your pet, even if it’s just a few hours of Christmas shopping or Thanksgiving dinner at your parents’ house. When these extended periods of time away from you happen, your pet might experience separation stress. This is demonstrated by whining or barking, chewing on furniture or other items, scratching walls and doors, and possibly using the bathroom inside (even if they are fully potty trained). 

If your dog or cat shows any of these signs of stress while you are away, it’s possible they are suffering from separation stress. It’s not uncommon for a well-adjusted animal to start displaying these signs during the holiday season when people tend to be away from home for longer periods of time with more frequency.

Noise Aversion and General Overwhelm

Whether it’s a few carolers at your door, a few visiting family members from out of town, or a full-blown Christmas party in your living room, your pet is probably going to experience a little bit of noise and stress during the holiday season. Many dogs and cats experience noise aversion and struggle to maintain their typical levels of calm when it’s loud or busy, especially in their space. 

If you host a holiday party, be sure to create a safe space where your pet can retreat if they don’t want to participate. This might be a back bedroom or bathroom where you place their bed and toys. You might want to have a special treat or interactive dog toys, such as a Kong filled with peanut butter, or an interactive cat toy on hand to keep them busy. If you notice your dog demonstrating signs of stress during your gathering, you can take them to their special space and give them the toy so they can take a break. Same for your kitty – if she’s hiding under the bed or otherwise stressed out, a quiet space with a fun toy might help!

You might also consider introducing some extra calming support into your pet’s daily CBD wellness routine. Our calming CBD tinctures for cats and dogs both feature melatonin, which can support your pet’s regular sleep schedule, and an herbal blend that will help them maintain their chill amidst the chaos of the holiday season. For dogs, our Calming CBD Soft Chews will taste like a special treat and help them relax with the soothing powers of L-tryptophan.  

Microchip Your Pet for Safety and Peace of Mind

The noise and distraction of the holidays can also make it easier for your pet to escape or get lost. If a family member accidentally leaves the front door open and your cat escapes or Sparky has time to dig underneath the gate in the backyard while you’re focused on Christmas dinner, how will you find your pet? 

Your pet should always wear some form of identification – usually a collar with a tag or placard on it that gives their name and your phone number. Even with a collar and ID, which can come off, it’s always important to microchip both cats and dogs. If a lost pet is found, the shelter or a veterinarian will scan for the chip, so be sure to keep your pet’s microchip information registered and up to date with your current contact information. The cost to microchip a dog or cat is minimal, and the procedure is simple.

There are also small tracking devices you can purchase to attach to your pet’s collar. The risk with such items is that, like any identification that’s attached to your pet, they could come loose or detached. 

Other Holiday Hazards and Pet Safety Tips

Keeping your pet calm during holiday stress and managing their diet carefully will be the two most important tasks for holiday pet safety, but there are some other safety tips to remember:

 

  • Protect your pet from toxic plants
  • Some decorations are risky for pets
  • Know your veterinarian’s hours and the nearest emergency clinic
  • Be careful with holiday costumes for pets

 

Many Holiday Plants Are Toxic to Pets

You might be surprised to learn that some of the most popular holiday plants for gifting and decorating, such as mistletoe and poinsettias, are dangerous to your pets. The berries on mistletoe contain lectins, polysaccharides, and alkaloids, all of which can disrupt your pet’s gastrointestinal system. At the very least, ingesting these berries could give your pet a stomach ache, but it can also cause much more severe symptoms like seizures and can even be fatal. Be sure mistletoe is out of reach of your pets and stays that way throughout the holidays, and when it comes time to dispose of the plant, make sure your animal can’t access it. 

The leaves and stems of poinsettias contain a white sap that, if ingested, can cause drooling and vomiting in cats and dogs. While the risks with this plant are less severe, these plants also tend to be more within your pet’s reach – poinsettias are often placed on the fireplace hearth or along walkways during the holidays, where your pet can easily get at them. Instead, find a higher space for them where you know your pet won’t start chewing and get sick.

If your pet ingests the sharp, stiff needles of a pine tree you’ve set up for the Christmas holiday, it can potentially tear or damage its intestines. Keep your pet away from the Christmas tree as much as possible, and if you suspect they’ve consumed pine needles, contact your veterinarian. Also, be aware of anything you add to the tree water; these preservatives can contain toxic ingredients.

 

A family gathered around a table for dinner with a woman holding a pumpkin decoration above a dog

 

Holiday Decorations Can Present Dangers for Pets

In addition to toxic plants, the holidays often inspire people to decorate with a variety of items that could present a risk to your pets. Of course, you don’t have to give up decorating the Christmas tree to keep your animal safe. Simply be conscious of things that could present a risk and make sure your pet is well-protected and monitored. 

Christmas string lights can be problematic if your pet chews on the wires or bulbs, and Christmas trees need to be secure and stable so they don’t fall on your pet. Be careful with glass ornaments – if one breaks and your pet doesn’t listen to the basic command to “leave it,” they might get glass in their paws or snout. 

Candle flames also present a fire risk with pets, as they could burn your pet or your pet could knock them over and cause a fire. Try LED candles or keep burning candles far from your pet’s reach.

Any new or interesting decorative item – from your vintage Santa figure to wrapping paper and bows – is at risk of being chewed and possibly ingested by a curious pet. Eating foreign objects can cause intestinal blockage in dogs and cats. The key to holiday decoration safety is monitoring and separation. Keep a close eye on your pet as often as possible and, when it’s not possible to watch your furry friend, ensure they are safely removed from items that might be risky. 

Know Holiday Hours and the Nearest Emergency Clinic

While prevention is the key to a successful holiday, accidents still happen. If your dog eats something they shouldn’t, or your cat pulls the Christmas tree down on top of them and they’re limping, you need to have an emergency plan.

Veterinarian offices, like any other business, often have limited holiday hours and closures that might make it difficult to reach your pet’s doctor. Keep your veterinarian’s holiday hours posted on the refrigerator so everyone knows if they’re available in case of an emergency. And if they’re not, you should have directions and a phone number for the nearest 24-hour veterinary emergency clinic. It’s also wise to keep the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center number handy (888-426-4435) as well.

Be Careful with Holiday Pet Costumes

From Halloween through the New Year, many pet owners are tempted to dress their cat or dog in costumes to promote the festivities. While we like a Santa Claus cat or Pilgrim dog as much as the next person, costumes present another set of risks and possible dangers. 

If you choose to dress up your cat or dog, examine the costume closely for strings or hanging pieces that might present a choking hazard. Be sure not to leave your pet alone in their costume, and don’t make them wear it if they seem nervous or uncomfortable. If you have a hairless pet that needs some extra warmth from a sweater during the winter holidays, choose a material that’s hypoallergenic like cotton or wool rather than synthetics that might irritate their sensitive skin or make them itchy.

Prioritize Pet Safety This Season with These Holiday Safety Tips

Your pet can enjoy the holiday celebrations as much as you do if you’re careful with their diet and their sense of comfort. Pet safety during the holidays is mostly about paying attention and being intentional with the choices you make on decorations, food, visitors, and preparation. Use our holiday safety tips to be sure you and your beloved animal have a fun, accident-free holiday season!



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