Pet Safety for the Holidays

Hints for the Holidays to Keep Your Pet Safe

The holidays are a wonderful and exciting time of year. They are a time for family, friends,
christmas-dogfood and celebration, but they can also hold hidden dangers for our furry family members. In order to help you and your four legged friends have the best holiday possible, we thought we would share five common issues we see over the holidays, and ways to keep your pets safe!

1. Topsy-Turvy Tummies: The holiday season is a bright and colourful time, full of amazing food, drinks and festive flowers! Unfortunately for our pets, many of these glad tidings can bring with them gastrointestinal upset.

  • Plants such as poinsettias, mistletoe, holly and lilies can cause issues ranging from stomach upset and vomiting to kidney failure if ingested by your pets. Using artificial substitutes for these colourful holiday decorations is an easy (and reusable!) way to keep your pet safe.
  • Alcohol is abundant at many holiday gatherings and the sweet, tasty concoctions that are so popular this time of year can be enticing for our pets. Keeping alcoholic beverages out of reach and quickly clearing glasses once guests are finished will reduce the chance your pet has to sneak a sip!
  • The final tummy-twisting-tiding to look out for is (predictably) food. Eating those delicious leftovers is a chore best left for you, as they can cause digestive upset for your pets. Fatty foods and novel eats can cause diarrhea, vomiting and pancreatitis! In addition, some things commonly found in holiday foods (raisins, grapes, onions, chocolate, etc.) are poisonous to your pet and can cause them to become extremely ill. The best bet for safe holiday food for your pet is their own.  If you are looking for a fun treat for your pet, we sell many dog-friendly and festively decorated cookies in our boutique!

2.   Festive Foreign Bodies: Often times decorations and other holiday trimmings are mistaken by our pets as tasty treats. When a pet ingests objects that their body cannot easily pass, often a blockage in their intestinal tract is created which requires costly surgery to remedy. Avoiding some common trouble makers can save you unexpected vet bills over the holidays.

  • Tinsel is best avoided in a home with pets. They love to play with it but will often accidentally eat it when it clings to their paws and fur. The same goes for the shiny, plastic confetti often thrown during New Year’s celebrations!
  • Decorating with food, such as popcorn strings, gingerbread or candy canes, should also be avoided. Not only will your pet likely eat the food they find, but also the wrappers, strings and possibly the nearby tree branches.
  • When wrapping gifts, it is a good idea to limit the use of ribbons and strings. Gifts often sit out for days and weeks before being opened, and inevitably our furry family members chew on the colourful offerings and will likely swallow some of the ribbon/string.

3.  Ornamental “Owwies”: Decorating for the holidays is a fun tradition, and a few simple precautions can help ensure it is also safe for your pets.

  • Avoid glass ornaments which can shatter if dropped and lead to cuts and scrapes on paws.
  • Avoid the use of metal hooks for hanging ornaments, as they can be swallowed by your pets. If you are using metal hooks, take extra care to close them tightly around tree limbs so they do not become accidentally loose and fall from the tree.
  • If you are putting up a Christmas tree, ensure that it is secured to a wall to prevent it from falling/toppling onto your pet. This is especially important if you have cats in your home, who often climb trees. If your tree is a live one, ensure that your pet cannot access the water basin at the base of the tree. The water often grows bacteria that can cause upset stomachs if ingested by your pet.
  • Keep any candles out of reach of your pets, and ensure that they are extinguished when you are not in the room.
  • Keep wires and lighting out of the reach of your pet.

4.  Seasonal Stress: The holidays are full of extra visits from family and friends, which can sometimes be overwhelming to our four legged family members. With a little forethought, we can ensure our pets feel as safe and stress free as possible during the festivities.

  • Have a safe place for your pet to retreat to. Set food and water (and a litter box for feline friends) in a quiet room that is off limits to your guests. This will allow your pet to retreat to a safe place if the noise and excitement start to get overwhelming.
  • Set aside some one-on-one snuggle time with each of your pets. Quiet time with you is a great way to help relieve anxiety that may be building in our pets when we are spending more time away from home than normal while visiting others and attending holiday gatherings.
  • If you will be hosting children during the holidays, it is a good idea to set some ground rules with them when they visit. Children with no pets may not understand what is appropriate and what is not, but even those with pets may not understand that these animals are unfamiliar with them and might be frightened of them. Explaining that it is ok to pet your cat or dog if they approach on their own – but not to go looking for them – can make a big difference for your pet’s anxiety!

5.   Stocking Stuffer Safety: If you have had the chance to browse through our boutique here at Guelph Animal Hospital, you will know that we are a staff who love to give toys to our pets. It seems more often than not pets even have their very own stockings for Santa to stuff! Ensuring that the gifts your pets receive are safe is essential to having a safe and fun holiday gift exchange.

  • Avoid animal bones. Animal bones, when chewed, can splinter and break in unpredictable ways and the pieces can be swallowed by your pet. This can lead to a trip to the vet if the sharp fragments become embedded or stuck within your pets gastrointestinal tract.
  • String is silly! Many cat toys are adorned with long strings, which can be dangerous if ingested. It is best to avoid these types of toys for safer, string free alternatives. However, if you have a toy with a string (such as a stick with a toy attached to a string for interactive playing) it is best to put the toy away and only bring it out when you will be supervising your pet’s play time.
  • Rawhide is a very popular holiday gift and can provide hours of chewing time for your pet. However, it is possible for large pieces to break off, which can choke your pet if swallowed. It is best to allow your pet to chew on rawhides only under your close supervision.

We here at the Guelph Animal Hospital always enjoy seeing our clients and their pets over the holidays, but we prefer it be for some belly scratches and liver treats, not an emergency visit! We hope that these helpful hints for keeping your pet safe will ensure emergency-free festivities for you and your family.



 Krystal Boehm B.A

Client Care Specialist


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