Skip to main content

Watch out! 5 common holiday dangers that pose a risk to your pet

The holidays are supposed to be holly and jolly. However, if your pet eats all the holly (and Hershey’s kisses, and chocolate-covered raisins…), it can turn you into more of a Grinch than a Cindy Lou Who.

Unfortunately, several holiday trimmings, from decor to gift wrap, can be trappings for our furry friends. That doesn’t mean you can’t deck your halls, stuff your stockings, and indulge in all your favorite holiday foods. You’ll just want to take a few extra steps to ensure your pet stays healthy and happy during the holiday season. Here are some common holiday dangers for pets and advice on how to keep your little one safe.

a dog lying on the floor next to a man with food
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Common holiday dangers for pets

Guests

You might be excited to see friends and family this year, but the increased foot traffic into your home may pose a few extra risks for your pet. First, it can be stressful, particularly if your pet has stranger anxiety. It may also disrupt their schedule if meals or walks get postponed while you entertain. What’s more, your guests may feed them table food that may be toxic or just an item you prefer not to give your pet. Give your pet a safe space, such as a cat tree or cozy bed in a secluded room, to retreat to if they’re partied out. Try to feed them at regular times, even if it means excusing yourself from the table, and set ground rules with guests.

Poinsettias

Poinsettias are like the Girl Scout cookies of the holiday season. You likely know someone selling them, whether it’s a co-worker, neighbor, organization, or your nephew’s school. They’re pretty to look at and make great additions to a mantle or dinner table. They’re also toxic to dogs or cats, according to the ASPCA. Though consuming a piece of a poinsettia is rarely fatal to dogs or cats, it can still bother their mouths and stomach. It may also leave you with a holiday gift not on your list to clean up: vomit. Opt for putting your plant somewhere out of reach of your puppy or kitty so that they aren’t tempted to stray from the safer holiday treats you have in store for them.

Trash

If it feels like you’re constantly taking out the trash during the holidays, you’re probably not imagining it. We throw away about 25% more waste during the holidays season, according to researchers. Aside from landing us on Mother Nature’s naughty list, there are some extra hazards in those trash bags for pets. Of course, they may not see it that way.

Turkey bones may smell good, but they can harm your dog or cat’s gastrointestinal tract. They’re also choking hazards.

Wrapping paper is another no-no—it can cause an obstruction in the GI tract that even requires surgery.

You likely already know that chocolate is toxic to pets. If your cousin decides she’s too stuffed to finish that decadent slice of chocolate cake and throws it away, you don’t want your pet getting into it.

Ensure your garbage is pet-proof by putting it in a locked cabinet and finding a can with a tight-fitting lid.

Jenna Hamra / Shutterstock

Tree lights

Videos of cats messing with Christmas décor may look funny on TikTok and YouTube, but it’s actually a dangerous activity. The lights are particularly hazardous, as they can cause electrocution and burns. Block off access to the tree with a gate, or even better, close the door to the room it’s in. Some felines aren’t fans of stepping on tin foil, so using it as a base and spraying a tree with a deterrent spray can also keep them from acting on their instincts to check out your mesmerizing-looking lights.

Kids’ toys

You may consider your pet your child, but human kids’ toys are not for them. Though battery-operated children’s toys may look and sound interesting, from the cool lights to the fun sounds, they may contain zinc, which can lead to pancreatitis or kidney damage. Other items, like plastic board game pieces, can break teeth or cause choking. Ensure your pet has plenty of his own toys to play with when your relatives bring their human children over for a visit so you can re-direct your animal’s attention as needed.

Safety comes first

Our pets make our faces light up like a Christmas tree every day. However, from chewing on the lights and eating table scraps, from digging through the trash to chewing on potentially hazardous toys, from pretty but toxic plants to pets dashing out the door as guests come and go, the holidays can pose plenty of risks for your pets. Be sure to stay alert and take some basic precautions to ensure you and your pet have a safe and happy holiday season.

Editors' Recommendations

Topics
BethAnn Mayer
Beth Ann's work has appeared on healthline.com and parents.com. In her spare time, you can find her running (either marathons…
Is getting a puppy for Christmas a good idea? You can’t return them like an ugly sweater
Here's what to know before you bring a puppy home this holiday
Woman snuggling Samoyed puppy in front of the Christmas tree

Of all the viral holiday videos to make their way around the internet, there’s nothing quite as heartwarming (and adorable) as seeing a new puppy jump out of a box on Christmas morning. It’s easy to see why many families feel inspired to get this surprise present for their loved ones and show up with a new furry friend during the holidays!
Getting a puppy for Christmas can seem like a special, even life-changing gift, but the cleaning and work accompanying them aren’t as cute. Many families -- especially kids -- aren’t prepared for the effort and expense of raising a dog, which unfortunately leads to pets being dropped off at shelters not long after the holidays.
If you’re considering gifting a puppy to your family this Christmas, make sure you do the research and consider the obligations that pet parenthood entails. Here’s what to know.

Why getting a puppy for Christmas isn’t always smart
Although raising a dog can be a rewarding and joyful experience, it also requires work, patience, and responsibility. Is your family ready to take this on? Are you willing to pick up the slack if they prove that they're not?
According to the shelter staff at the Marion County Humane Society in West Virginia, shelter admissions tend to increase every year at the end of January. Unfortunately, many of these pets are Christmas gifts that families weren’t ready to care for.
“People that got a new puppy or a new kitten, and they expect their young child to take care of them,” one shelter tech told WDTV. "Of course, if the kid doesn't do it, the parent doesn't want to take care of them, either.”
A lack of research is also a huge factor in unsuccessful pet adoptions. Not all dog breeds will do well in all homes, so consulting an expert or doing some reading is vital before taking action. And remember — a cute, tiny puppy can still grow into a huge, rambunctious dog (depending on their breed), so you’ll need to be prepared.
It’s also important to consider where you’re adopting your new pup from because not all breeders are reliable. As awful as it is to acknowledge, some people sell sick and injured dogs for a quick buck. Needless to say, a dog with health concerns can be as loving of a companion as any other — after treatment, of course — but you have a right to be informed about the condition of your new friend, including information about the puppy's parents.
Shelters can help you get to know your pup a bit before bringing him home, but rescued dogs will still need some extra time to adjust to their surroundings. The honeymoon phase may not be as happy-go-lucky as you expect, especially if there has been any past trauma for your pup. If this is the case, don't be upset if your new dog isn't matching the holly jolly spirit!

Read more
Best reptile pets: These are the 5 most affectionate reptiles you can welcome into your home
These friendly reptiles will make great additions to your family
Basking Chinese water dragon

When you picture an adorable pet, you probably don't visualize an iguana. Reptiles aren't generally considered the cutest of animals, but that doesn't mean you can't find a cuddly one. Whether you're looking for a new buddy for yourself or for your lizard-obsessed kid, there's a reptilian beast out there that will work great in your home.

With proper socialization, these guys can learn to be handled daily, some even by children. If you want a new pet that enjoys human company, consider one of the most affectionate slitherers — they're the best reptile pets for handling.

Read more
Why is my dog whining? 6 common reasons and what you can do to stop it
If you wonder "why is my dog whining?" — check out the possible causes
Sad dog resting his head near a shoe

Let’s be honest: No matter how much we love our fur babies, living with a dog that's a whiner can drive you crazy. Whining can be irritating, heartbreaking, and even anxiety-inducing for owners. Whether it's distracting you from work, making you sad to leave the house, or making you worry that something is wrong with your dog, figuring out why your dog is whining and what you can do about it is important.

No matter how disruptive it is, always remember that whining is a form of communication for our dogs, say training experts at the ASPCA. The key is to properly interpret the noise and figure out how to work with her on it; to try to answer the question, "Why is my dog whining?"

Read more