Keep pets safe over the holidays with these tips

A picture of a dog with holiday decorations
Photo by kandypix / Getty Images

By Celeste Morales, MA, Volunteer Writer

The winter holiday season is in full swing, and for many of us including our furry family members in the festivities is a given. But, amidst the holiday hustle and bustle, it’s important to be mindful of the potential stressors and dangers of the season that could impact our pets’ health and well-being. Check out these safety tips to help make your holiday celebrations safe and joyful for everyone.

Holiday Foods

Dishes that are particularly rich and fatty shouldn’t be shared with your pets, along with dishes that contain onion and garlic. Be careful with bones and skin if you’re sharing meat with your pets. Keep chocolate desserts, candy, anything sweetened with Xylitol, and alcoholic cocktails away from your pets. These are just some of the holiday foods that can cause gastrointestinal distress (e.g., upset stomach, diarrhea, vomiting, pancreatitis), so always air on the side of caution when sharing food with your pets (Sources here and here).

If you’re wondering what is safe and healthy to share with your pets, like pumpkin and carrots, check out this list.

And, if you’re feeling like making a special holiday treat for your pup, check out this easy dog treat recipe and these cat treat recipes. You can make these treats vegan by swapping egg for flax egg, which is safe for pets!

A cat hiding in a holiday-themed box
Make sure pets have a safe space when people come over for holiday gatherings.
Photo by Irina Gutyryak / Getty Images

Holiday Gatherings

Whether your pets are people-lovers or prefer to have their space from humans, you can take precautions to make sure your pet feels safe if you’re hosting a holiday gathering. First, be sure to inform your guests about your pet’s boundaries and preferences. This can simply look like letting them know whether your pet enjoys being pet, picked up, etc. Advocating for your pet is a great way to build trust with them! It’s also a great idea to ensure that your pet has access to their own quiet, comfortable space that they can retreat to whenever they choose. Shy or nervous dogs and cats may wish to stay cozy in an area away from the party hustle and bustle, and that’s okay too!

Holiday Plants & Holiday Décor

With festive gatherings come festive decorations, and while these are fun to look at, be sure to keep these out of reach of your pets. Garlands, tinsel, and ribbons will be tempting for your furry friends to play with, but if ingested can cause dangerous intestinal blockages.

According to the BC SPCA, holly, when ingested, can cause pets to suffer nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Mistletoe can also cause gastrointestinal upset and cardiovascular problems for animals. For cats in particular, many types of lilies can cause kidney failure if ingested. Instead, you may want to opt for artificial versions of these festive plants, or consult lists of pet-safe festive plants and flowers, like Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera truncata).

A picture of a scared dog under a blanket


Finally, consider avoiding fireworks this New Year’s Eve and opt for other more animal-friendly celebratory traditions instead. Fireworks are terrifying, dangerous, and harmful for all animals—companion, wild, and farm. According to the BCSPCA, animals are often seriously injured in their frightened attempts to escape, including lacerations, sprains and broken limbs. Further, reports of lost pets increase during and after fireworks displays. For wildlife, fireworks can frighten, disorient and disturb. For example, when scared away from their dens and roosting sites, wildlife can run into busy streets or fly into buildings, which often has fatal results. Fireworks can also interrupt the natural feeding and breeding behaviours of wild animals, and even cause them to abandon their young. You can read more about the devastating effects of fireworks on the BCSPCA’s website, and on the Animal Ethics website.

If you know that there will be fireworks in your area and your pet is afraid of them, be sure to secure your pet in a safe, escape-proof area, perhaps with some white noise or soothing music.

How do you celebrate your holiday season with your domestic companions? Let us know by emailing or commenting on our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, or YouTube channels!

Celeste Morales is a sociologist and scholar-activist who is passionate about human and animal well-being. For the past 3+ years she has worked in this space, leading multiple equity-centered research projects that prioritize community-engaged approaches. She is a longtime vegan, proud Latina, and grateful dog mom to Harvey and Harlow. You can connect with her on LinkedIn here.

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