’Tis the season for hot cocoa, peppermint sticks, and sparkling lights. Christmas season has arrived, and although it may look a little different this year, celebrations can still be merry and bright. Naturally, we want to include our four-legged friends in the festivities, but many holiday traditions can be dangerous for pets. Avoid an unexpected sleigh ride to the veterinary emergency room by following these three Christmas season safety tips from your Southern Crossing Animal Hospital veterinary team.  

#1: Keep pets from prancing around the kitchen

Seasonal sweets and treats are hard for people and pets to resist. However, most holiday meals and snacks are difficult for pets to digest and can lead to gastrointestinal (GI) distress and pancreatitis, a potentially deadly inflammatory condition that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and dehydration. Additionally, raw meats, bones, and food scraps and wrappers can cause bacterial infections and GI obstructions that may require surgery. Instead of sharing your holiday plate with your pet, offer them a special pet-safe treat or toy to include them in the celebrations. Never feed your pets the following: 

  • Onions, garlic, chives, and leeks — Members of the Allium family are toxic to pets, and small amounts can cause red blood cell breakdown and life-threatening anemia. Clinical signs, which can occur several days after ingestion, including panting, elevated heart rate, GI upset, and blood in the urine.
  • Sage, spices, and herbs — These savory side dish additives can be toxic, especially to cats, and result in GI upset or central nervous system depression.
  • Raw dough — Unbaked dough can rise in a pet’s warm stomach, leading to painful gas or, in severe cases, intestinal bloating.
  • Alcohol — Foods or beverages containing alcohol can cause a variety of symptoms, including vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, tremors, or death.
  • Raisins and grapes — Only a few raisins or grapes can be toxic to susceptible dogs, leading to kidney failure. Clinical signs, which can occur up to two hours after ingestion, include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, tremors, and excess urination.
  • Casseroles — Animals don’t produce adequate lactase to properly digest dairy products, and eating any milk-based product can cause GI upset and diarrhea. Most casserole dishes include milk-based products and should be kept out of your pet’s reach.
  • Chocolate — Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, stimulants that can be deadly to dogs, with the highest concentrations found in dark and baker’s chocolate. Clinical signs include vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, elevated heart rate, and possible death.
  • Sugar-free treats — Many sugar-free foods, and some peanut butters, contain the sugar substitute xylitol. Small amounts can be toxic and cause liver failure, seizures, and death in some cases. 

#2: Hang the pet’s stockings and decorations with care

Sparkling ornaments, holiday candles, and Christmas centerpieces transform our homes into the perfect winter wonderland. Hanging your pet’s special stocking high out of reach is the perfect way to include your pet in the decorating traditions, because curious pets will likely want to investigate the new decor and smells in the home. Take care to avoid these decorating dangers:

  • Christmas tree — Ensure the tree is secured to a wall or ceiling to prevent pet injury from a falling tree. 
  • Christmas tree preservatives — Pets may drink preservative- and bacteria-laden  Christmas tree water, so keep your tree stand covered, and avoid using any water additives, as most are toxic to pets. 
  • Christmas tree ornaments Place breakable and handmade ornaments on higher branches to prevent a laceration from shattered glass or salt toxicity from eating salt dough ornaments. 
  • Scented candles and potpourri — Keep candles out of your pet’s reach to prevent singed fur, or a house fire. Most scented candles and potpourri contain essential oils that are toxic and potentially deadly to pets, particularly these oils
  • Tinsel and holiday ribbon Feline friends often mistake tinsel and ribbon for cat toys. Ingestion can result in GI distress or blockage that may require surgery, so ensure all tinsel is kept high on the tree and out of paws’ reach, and that holiday ribbons are stored away from curious cats. 
  • Wires and batteries — Limit exposure to electrical cords and batteries. Chewing chords can lead to serious injuries, including oral burns and electric shock. Ensure your pet does not have access to batteries, which contain zinc and can lead to GI distress, anemia, seizures, and death in some cases. 

While decking your halls, keep in mind that many popular holiday plants are dangerous to pets. Lilies are particularly dangerous to cats, and eating only a small amount of any part of the plant, including the pollen and leaves, can cause drooling, vomiting, and decreased appetite, and can lead to kidney failure. In addition to lilies, ensure the following plants are out of your pet’s reach:

  • Amaryllis
  • Mistletoe
  • Balsam
  • Pine
  • Cedar
  • Holly 
  • Christmas cactus
  • Poinsettia 

#3: Keep your furry creatures from stirring

Holiday gatherings may be smaller this year, but the excitement and preparations are equally big. From kitchen chaos, to holiday music, to crackling fires, new sights and smells can be stressful to pets, including those who are typically laid back. During meal and party times, designate a pet-safe room or crate where your pet will be comfortable and away from the holiday commotion. Play soft music and provide a special toy or treat to help keep them calm. For extra anxious pets, consider using a pheromone such as Adaptil or Feliway to encourage relaxation.  

Our Southern Crossing Animal Hospital team wishes you and your family a wonderful and safe holiday season. But, should your pets get into any holiday danger, call or message our office—we are always here to help.