Which traditions will you celebrate this holiday season? Whether you’re staying close to home, traveling to visit family, or throwing an all-out bash, your pet will notice the change in your routine and become curious, and perhaps anxious, about tasty food and holiday decor. The holiday season is rife with opportunities for pet mischief, which could necessitate an emergency veterinary visit and ruin your holiday plans. The Companion Veterinary Clinic team wants to simplify your holiday, so here are 10 tips to help you keep pets safe this year.

#1: Plan ahead for pet emergencies

Plan ahead for the worst by knowing whom to call and where to go should your pet get into trouble. You should call your primary veterinarian first, but also be familiar with local veterinary emergency hospitals and have their phone numbers handy. Always call ahead to let the hospital know you’re coming, so they can advise you on the safest way to transport your pet and be prepared for your arrival. If you suspect or know that your pet has ingested something toxic, you can call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center or the Pet Poison Helpline.

#2: Properly restrain pets during travel

When traveling by car, ensure pets are restrained with a seat belt, or in a crate or car seat specifically designed for pets and size-appropriate. Loose pets can distract the driver, or be trapped or injured during a crash. Before traveling interstate or internationally, you’ll need to obtain a health certificate from your veterinarian stating your pet is up-to-date on vaccinations and healthy enough to travel.

#3: Restrict access to holiday foods

Keep pets in another room while you’re cooking and serving a meal, and ask guests to refrain from feeding your pet, because many holiday foods can be dangerous and cause the following problems:

  • Toxicity — Chocolate, xylitol (i.e., an artificial sweetener), raisins, grapes, macadamia nuts, onions, and garlic are toxic to pets and can cause serious organ damage or death. 
  • Pancreatitis — Fatty foods and table scraps can overwhelm your pet’s digestive system and incite pancreatic inflammation. Pancreatitis is extremely painful, causes vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy, and requires a hospital stay to recover.
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) obstruction—Cooked bones can splinter and tear or block the GI tract, and corn cobs or other large items can also get stuck. These emergencies usually require surgery to save your pet’s life.

#4: Promptly remove food-containing trash

Don’t let your guard down after the meal, because your pet could still break into the trash and consume dangerous items like bones or meat scraps. Remove trash as soon as possible after clean-up, and ensure pets can’t knock over and access the trash cans.

#5: Be aware of toxic holiday plants

Most festive holiday plants, including poinsettia, mistletoe, and holly, can cause drooling and stomach upset when sampled by pets. Lilies are beautiful on the holiday table, but only a tiny amount can cause severe kidney failure and death in cats. Check the ASPCA’s list of toxic and non-toxic plants to choose pet-safe plants for your home.

#6: Secure the Christmas tree

Pets can easily knock over the tree, injure themselves, and leave you a huge mess. Secure the tree to a wall or ceiling to prevent tipping, and choose durable, non-glass ornaments that won’t shatter if knocked off the tree. Better yet, prevent pet access with a low gate around the tree base or deterrents like scat mats or foil, or keep them out of the room entirely.

#7: Watch out for tinsel, ribbons, and string

These attractive items are deadly—especially for cats. When consumed, linear foreign bodies can bunch up the intestines and cause a life-threatening blockage. Supervise cats closely around these items, keep them in another room while you’re away, or forgo these items entirely.

#8: Beware open flames and electrical cords

Candles add beautiful ambiance to a wintery holiday scene, and may also be part of your holiday traditions, but open flames can endanger pets. If your pet jumps onto the countertop and brushes against or knocks over the flames, they could be burned, or start a house fire. Similarly, biting into electrical cords can cause burns and serious shocks. Place candles in areas inaccessible to pets, always supervise pets around lit candles, and put out the flames and unplug cords when you leave the room or the house, or go to bed.

#9: Keep up your pet’s normal routine

Change is tough for pets, and while they may love having more family members at home instead of at work or school, they can be stressed if their routine is upset. Try to keep waking, bed, feeding, play, and exercise times consistent for your pets throughout the holiday season.

#10: Identify and mitigate pet anxiety and stress

Parties, loud noises such as fireworks, and strangers can trigger anxiety in many pets, including those who typically enjoy guests. Offer all pets a safe, quiet retreat with familiar toys and comfy bedding when they feel overwhelmed. Speak with your veterinarian prior to stressful gatherings if your pet is highly anxious or noise-sensitive, as they may need calming supplements or medications. You can also try pheromone sprays, anxiety wraps, and calming music.

The holidays can be stressful, but Companion Veterinary Clinic is here to support you and your pets through the chaos. Call us to schedule a visit if you need a health certificate, anxiety medication, or additional tips to help your pet stay safe this season.