Lurking Dangers: Top Holiday Risks for Family Pets

In her latest column, North Bend resident and pet trainer at Le Chic pet offers important reminders of some of the risks the holiday season (and winter weather) can pose for beloved, family pets – and offers advice to help keep them safe.


When the holiday season craziness starts, it’s easy to forget some of the dangers that lurk for our pets. There are many common, but easily forgotten hazards this time of year. Here are some reminders of dangers to help keep our four-legged family members safe and happy.

Food Dangers

  • Holiday dinners are a yummy indulgence this time of year, but did you know that too much fatty food can cause pancreatitis in some susceptible dogs and cats? We all love to sneak Fido or Muffin a special morsel of turkey or perhaps a savory piece of Prime Rib, but be careful. If you have a large dinner party and Fido works those puppy eyes on ten or twenty people, you may have a very sick pet on your hands. Limit those special treats to very few.
  • Aunt Bee loves to send everyone a box of See’s candies every year festively wrapped. But wait! Don’t put that candy box under the tree until Christmas morning. Spot can sniff that out and may eat all your chocolates. Chocolates are toxic and possibly fatal to dogs. Unsweetened Bakers Chocolate is particularly, bad so careful with all those cookies too. Sugar free doesn’t get a pass either. Xylitol a popular sugar substitute is also toxic.
  • Keep those yummy drinks up out of reach. While the thought of drunken dog or cat may sound amusing, the reality can be deadly. When alcoholic drinks are served, cats and dogs should be left out of the party-and in a safe place.
  • Baking is an integral part of all of our festivities, but use care with that yeast dough. It can rise and cause gas accumulation in your dog’s tummy.  At best Fido will have a tummy that hurts for a while, at worst a ruptured stomach or intestines. A small amount of cooked bread is fine for Fido but the uncooked dough is best left alone.

Decoration Hazards

  • A sparkling decorated tree is a beautiful part of some households this time of year, but be careful to keep light wires away from known chewers. Getting through that plastic cover could give some animal friend a rude “shock.”
  • A tree in the living room is a novel thing for our furry friends. A cat could see it as a challenge to climb. A dog a beautiful thing to mark. To avoid a peed on or knocked over tree, some pet owners choose to surround their trees with an exi-pen. That also prevents drinking from the stagnant Christmas tree water, which can cause stomach upset.
  • Kitties love those little crunchy tinsel balls we buy to entertain them. Dogs love balls in general. We cannot expect our furry friends to understand the tinsel and balls on the tree are somehow different. Limiting access to the tree can prevent a dog ingesting a glass ball or a cat a long piece of tinsel. Doing so can save a costly trip to the vet to treat an intestinal blockage or a badly cut mouth.
  • Most all common holiday plants are toxic to animals. The toxicity ranges from mild to severe, but some can be fatal if enough is ingested. Think twice before bringing home Poinsettias, Mistletoe, Holly, Amaryllis or Lilies if you have an indiscriminate eater.

Outdoor Risk

  • Your door will open and shut many times when guests arrive. It’s best to keep them away from the door.
  • Time of year everyone is preparing their vehicles for the cold weather to come. Anti-freeze is part of that preparation. Washington State has required a bittering agent to be part of the sweet syrup concoction for a few years now, but there is no law that says people can’t use old bottles. Keep pets away from the bright green puddles. An estimated 10,000 dogs and cats die every year from anti-freeze poisoning.
  • If you need to de-ice your driveway consider using a melting agent other than rock salt. Rock salt can damage pet paws as well as make them sick if they ingest it. Look into alternatives for rock salt and clean and wash your pet’s paws when they come in from the cold.
  • Don’t forget the last hurrah of the holiday season, New Year’s Eve.  Many people like to celebrate the New Year arriving with a display of loud fireworks. Just like you do for the Fourth of July, make sure your pet has a safe quiet place to get away from the noise.

If a situation arises and you need to talk to a professional the ASPCA poison control center is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Their number is 1-888-426-4435. Keep it by your phone and have a happy healthy holiday season.

Xmas Pets

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