Americans love their pets. In fact, 95 percent of pet owners1 consider their pets true members of their family — which means Fido isn’t left out during the holidays — and 70 percent2 of people even buy Christmas gifts for their pets.
The holiday season is full of delicious foods, decorations, get-togethers, and travel. While it’s a special time for humans, it can also be a stressful and even dangerous one for pets.
Take a look at some of the most common holiday risks for pets, and what you can do to keep your furry family members safe:
Keep people food for people only
From Thanksgiving feasts to parties to Christmas cookies, the holidays are full of delicious foods. As tempting as it can be to want to share your bounty with your pets, people food can be hazardous to your pet’s health. Some of the most dangerous foods include:
- Chocolate. The darker the chocolate, the more toxic it is. Keep chocolates out of reach for pets.
- Cooked bones. Tossing your dog a turkey leg can cause serious damage; cooked bones can splinter and cause internal injury to your pet.
- Nutmeg. The star spice in pumpkin pie and many other Thanksgiving dishes, nutmeg is another toxic ingredient that can be harmful.
- Raisins and grapes. Keep fruit cake and any other food with raisins or grapes away from your pets — even a small amount can cause kidney failure.
- Xylitol. It only takes a small amount of xylitol, a sugar substitute found in many sugar-free foods, to make your pet seriously ill.
- High-fat foods. Foods high in fat can be particularly upsetting to a pet’s digestive system.
When it’s time to eat, keep pets away from the table so you or your guests won’t be tempted to sneak your pets a treat.
Deck the halls with safety
Holiday decorations make the house look festive, but they can also be an accident waiting to happen if you have pets. A few extra precautions can make them safe for your pets:
- Keep toxic plants away. Poinsettias, English ivy, mistletoe, holly, and amaryllis are some of the most toxic plants for pets, so keep them away from dogs and cats or opt for artificial versions.
- Anchor your Christmas tree. Lights and dangling ornaments are tempting to cats and dogs, so make sure you anchor your tree to keep it from falling, just in case.
- Avoid tinsel. Tinsel is particularly hazardous to animals and can cause blockage if ingested. It’s best to leave it off the tree altogether.
Following basic safety rules around the holidays, such as never leaving candles unattended and concealing wires and cords, will also help keep your home safer for your pets.
Make your holiday gatherings pet-friendly
If you’re hosting out-of-town guests or parties, keep these tips in mind:
- Supervise your pets around guests. Not all animals are as welcome or as loving with guests as they are with their families, so make sure you supervise interactions, especially when kids are involved.
- Have a quiet area for pets. A crate or kennel in a quiet room can be a nice reprieve for pets if things get too noisy. Putting your pets in a quiet space or crate during meals also minimizes the chance they could get into food.
- Keep purses and bags away from pets. Your dog or cat might be drawn to bags with new smells, but these bags often contain pills, foods, or other toxic ingredients. Make sure guests keep their bags zipped up or out of reach.
Setting a few house rules, like no rough play with pets, and no feeding people food to pets, can keep your holiday gatherings happy and safe for your pets and guests.
Keep an eye on pets when you’re away
When holiday plans include travel, you may not be able to bring them along. Some pet owners take their pets to a kennel, which provides supervised care while you’re away.
Boarding a pet can be stressful for the pet (and owner!). A house or pet sitter who comes to your home to feed your pets and let them outside is an ideal arrangement. Your pets can stay in an environment they're comfortable in, and you also have someone stopping by to make sure everything is safe in your home.