Holiday Safety Tips for Pets

Whether you plan to visit friends and relatives or you’re hosting guests at your home, here are ways to avoid holiday pet hazards and help pets stay safe while you celebrate.

Large multi generational family together for a family portrait, with dog in front iStock

Pet health and safety are high priorities for pet owners all year long. In fact, according to one study, a typical pet owner spends more than $1,300 annually to care for a pet—and that’s on top of adoption fees and first-time supplies.

While pet parents are used to everyday care, it’s important to consider ways to keep your best friend safe and healthy when routines change during the holidays. Here are some holiday safety tips for pets for those times when you’re entertaining at your place or taking your furry friend to a gathering elsewhere.

Food and drink

Some festive foods aren’t safe for pets. Here’s a list of things to avoid: •

  • Everyday foods: Chocolate is toxic for dogs and cats. Onions, raisins and grapes are also poisonous to pets.
  • Xylitol: This artificial sweetener—found in a range of products, including gum, breath mints and baked goods—has been linked to liver failure in dogs.
  • Table scraps: Items that are fatty, salty or spicy can upset pets’ systems, as can bones and raw eggs.
  • Nuts and pits: These items can cause choking or blockage. Some fruit pits are poisonous.
  • Foods with citric acid: These foods can create digestive upset or affect the nervous system.
  • Alcohol:  Beer, wine and spirits can cause illness. Consumption can even be life-threatening.

The ASPCA has compiled a comprehensive list of human foods and drinks that can be harmful to your pets.

A good rule of thumb is to make sure trash containers are out of reach and tightly sealed. But even with these restrictions, your pets don’t have to miss out on treats. Try these paw-some recipes for your pets to enjoy

Two dogs looking at decorated Christmas tree iStock


Some holiday decorations can be pet hazards.

  • Christmas trees: Keep your dog or cat from eating branches or pine needles and from drinking the water in the tree stand, which may contain bacteria or dangerous chemicals. None of these are good for your pet’s digestive system.
  • Plants and flowers: Common household or decorative plants can cause problems if your pet eats them. Amaryllis, mistletoe, balsam, pine, cedar, lilies, poinsettias and holly can be dangerous and even poisonous to pets.
  • Decor: Keep homemade ornaments, especially those made from salt dough or other food-based materials, away from pets. Broken ornaments can injure pets, and tinsel, potpourri, candles and electrical wiring should also be kept away from pets.
African American mother, father and child with dog in room decorated for Christmas iStock

Pet safety tips for gatherings

Celebrations can get noisy, so make sure your pet has a quiet and accessible place to retreat to. If you’re the host, inform guests ahead of time if your pet will be present at the get-together or if other guests plan to bring their pets. If you’re a guest, make sure your pet is welcome and inquire if others will be bringing pets. Determine beforehand how well the attending pets get along with each other. And remember that some exotic pets may make guests uncomfortable.

Be sensitive to children who may be afraid of animals. Introduce kids andpets to each other carefully, and closely monitor the interaction between them. Also, consider the opposite problem: children who are unafraid of pets and may be rough with them.

Keep an eye on your pets so they don’t sneak out of the house while guests are coming and going. Ensure that your pet is properly identified with your contact information, and consider using and registering a microchip.

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