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Tips to keep your pets safe during the holidays

December 20, 2022

The festive season is now upon us, and while it’s exciting it does present some challenges for pet owners and their furry friends. From Christmas trees to holiday baking, your home will be full of sights, sounds and smells that make your pet curious. (Who can blame them?) But there are some things you can do to protect them against dangerous decorations, toxic plants and unhealthy treats. The last thing anyone wants is a visit to the vet!

Since the holidays are a busy time, your pet’s schedule is important. Try to adhere to regular exercise and feeding times as much as possible. That being said, there are still some great holiday activities to do with pets.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty Against Animals and other pet experts offer these tips to make sure your festive season is a happy one:

Be careful with toxic seasonal plants and decorations

  • Oh, Christmas Tree: Securely anchor your tree so it doesn't tip and fall, causing possible injury to your pet. This will also prevent the tree water — which may contain fertilizers that can cause stomach upset — from spilling. The Ontario SPCA and Humane Society has some great tips for how to protect your tree from the cat.
  • Avoid Mistletoe & Holly: Holly, when ingested, can cause pets to suffer nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Mistletoe can cause gastrointestinal upset and cardiovascular problems. And many varieties of lilies can cause kidney failure in cats if ingested. Choose artificial plants or a pet-safe bouquet instead.
  • Tinsel-less Town: Cats love this sparkly, light-catching "toy" that's easy to bat around and carry in their mouths. But if ingested it can lead to an obstructed digestive tract, severe vomiting, dehydration and possible surgery.
  • That Holiday Glow: Don't leave lighted candles unattended. Pets may burn themselves or cause a fire if they knock candles over. If you leave the room where one is lit, blow the candle out. Even better, choose safer battery-operated ones.
  • Wired Up: Keep wires, batteries and glass or plastic ornaments out of paws' reach. A wire can deliver a potentially lethal electrical shock and a punctured battery can cause burns to the mouth and esophagus, while shards of breakable ornaments can damage your pet's mouth and digestive tract.

Avoid festive food dangers

  • Skip the Sweets: Do not feed your pets chocolate and anything sweetened with xylitol. Make sure to keep your pets away from the table and unattended plates of food and be sure to secure the lids on garbage cans.
  • Leave the Leftovers: Fatty, spicy and other human foods, as well as bones, should not be fed to your furry friends.
  • Careful with Cocktails: If your celebration includes adult holiday beverages, be sure to place your unattended alcoholic drinks where pets cannot get to them. If ingested, your pet could become weak, ill and may even go into a coma, possibly resulting in death from respiratory failure.
  • Selecting Special Treats: Looking to stuff your pet's stockings? Stick with chew toys that are basically indestructible, Kongs that can be stuffed with healthy foods or chew treats that are designed to be safely digestible. The riskiest toys for cats involve ribbon, yarn and loose little parts that can get stuck in the intestines, often necessitating surgery. Choose a ball that’s too big to swallow or a stuffed catnip toy, for example.

RELATED READING: Common foods that pose a danger to your pet

Plan pet-safe gatherings

  • House Rules: If your animal-loving guests would like to give your pets a little extra attention and exercise while you're busy tending to the party, ask them to feel free to start a nice play or petting session. It’s also a good idea to let your guests know not to feed your pet – either from their plate or the table.
  • Put the Meds Away: Make sure all of your medications are locked behind secure doors and be sure to tell your guests to keep their meds packed away, too.
  • A Room of Their Own: Give your pet their own quiet space to retreat to — complete with fresh water and a place to snuggle.
  • New Year's Noise: As you count down to the new year, please keep in mind that strings of thrown confetti can get lodged in a cat's intestines and, if ingested, could necessitate surgery. Noisy poppers can terrify pets and cause possible damage to sensitive ears. Many pets are also scared of fireworks, so be sure to secure them in a safe, escape-proof area as midnight approaches.

Sometimes, despite precautions, accidents can happen. Toxic ingestion can cost between $500 and $2,000 to be treated. Pet Insurance can help you deal with the situation without expense being an overriding concern. It also offers other resources including the 24/7 Pet Poison Helpline that can assist if you think your pet has ingested a toxic substance.

RELATED READING: Household poisons a threat to your pet

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