Christmas is almost here! Don’t worry, DogWatch is ready. We pulled together one last list of tips to keep your pets safe during the end-of-season holiday madness. Noise, food, decorations, guests, travel – these next two weeks have it all! Follow our this list, and enjoy the most wonderful time of the year with your wonderful pets!

The Food

Holiday feasts are not only tempting for us, but also for our pets. Be sure to keep an eye out for unattended plates or serving dishes left within reach. Also, don’t forget to watch the trash and any drinks – your pets can get in trouble exploring these things, too!

Extra caution is needed for specific, dangerous foods containing chocolate, xylitol, bones, alcohol or grapes. (For more information on good and bad people food for pets, check out our good and bad Thanksgiving foods blog post.) Leftover treats should be kept to a minimum and limited to foods that your pets have tried before without incident. (Nobody enjoys a Christmas trip to the vet!)

To avoid food-related surprises altogether, purchase or prepare special holiday-themed treats (like these for dogs and these for cats). Inform your guests that table scraps are off-limits for Fido and Fluffy, and instead, have proper treats available so you can include your pet in the holiday festivities without risking any unintended consequences.

The Tree

The Christmas tree is a holiday tradition for many – but it can be a nightmare for dog owners. First and foremost, be sure to securely anchor your tree so it does not fall, especially if your pet likes to play near it. If you have a real tree, keep your pet away from the tree water. It may contain fertilizers, and if it stays stagnant, it can upset your pet’s stomach and cause diarrhea.

Also, keep your pet away from the tree’s strings of lights. Some dogs are tempted to chew these cords, which can cause a serious electric shock. Check for signs of chewing each day, and do not let your pet play in the tree area if these signs appear.  If you need more than a stern warning to keep your pet away from the tree, you may want to consider using an electronic indoor boundary to ensure the safety of both your pet and your tree.  Indoor boundaries also work well for other indoor areas (such as the kitchen counter!). Check out our Indoor Boundaries page for more information.

The Decorations

As for the decorations, these cheery signs of the season can also be dangerous for pets. Cats are often attracted to tinsel and dangling ornaments, while dogs like to sniff and explore all these new objects. We recommend placing the breakable glass or aluminum ornaments higher up on the tree, to reduce the likelihood of a broken ornament (or a consumed one) that causes harm. Cat owners should probably avoid tinsel and decorative ribbon altogether, since many cats are drawn to it and its ingestion can cause a dangerous intestinal blockage. If your pet consumes any of these potentially harmful decorations, contact your vet immediately.

As mentioned above, an Indoor Boundary is a safe and easy solution that will keep both you and your pets happy. Your local DogWatch Dealer offers several models available for both cats and dogs, including both wired and wireless options. These will allow your whole family, including your pets, to enjoy the holiday together.

Plants can also be dangerous if consumed by pets. Poinsettias are a well-known Christmas plant that is toxic to cats and dogs, but it is not the only one. Lilies can be harmful to cats, and even the traditional holly and mistletoe are no-nos for pet households. For a complete, searchable list of toxic and non-toxic plants, check out the ASPCA’s impressive database. For printable versions of the ASPCA’s toxic plant lists, click here for dogs and here for cats.

The Guests

The end-of-year holidays often involve large gatherings of friends and family. This often means introducing or re-introducing your pets to these guests. Some pets react better to this situation than others.

Before letting the two meet, take a moment to think out a plan of action. Ask yourself: Is your pet comfortable around large groups, or do they make him nervous? Is your pet accustomed to interacting with children? Are any of your guests bringing along pets of their own? Does your pup need a refresher course to remind him not to jump on guests? Finally, are any of your guests afraid of or allergic to pets? From there, you can decide whether or not your pet should be kept in a separate room or crate – or, if you are lucky enough to live in a warm climate, outside – during these hectic entertaining hours.

The Celebration

Late December isn’t just a time for gift-giving and family meals – it also includes New Year’s Eve, the year’s biggest party. New Year Eve celebrations bring their own list of pet owner to-dos.

First, pay attention to your champagne flutes! A curious dog can easily sneak a sip behind your back and become ill. Second, confetti, like tinsel, is harmful to pets if ingested, and should be avoided. Third, dogs can react negatively to the loud noises of the night – fireworks, party favors, cheers, etc. For particularly nervous dogs, consider keeping them in a crate or a separate, private room for the evening. And if you can’t bear to get rid of your bugles and horns, try conditioning your dog to their sound in the week’s prior to the big night. That way, the noise won’t come as such a shock when the clock strikes midnight!

Thanks for reading, and we wish you all a very happy and healthy new year!


Photo Credit: “Serius Xmas 2014” by Chris Price is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Photo is cropped.

This blog post was adapted from a previous Dog Tails blog post from 2010.