It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The Holiday season is full of lights, laughs, delicious meals, and also, potential dangers for your four-legged family members. Whether it’s food and holiday treats, festive decorations, or houses full of people and parties, there’s plenty of precautions you need to take to keep your pets safe.

Here’s how to navigate the end-of-the-year madness!

dog with dinner plate, Holiday Safety Tips: How To Keep Your Pets Safe During End-Of-Year Festivities

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!)

Alcohol is a potential hazard for your dog. Although dogs aren’t innately drawn to the taste or smell of alcohol, a sugary drink left unattended or that gets knocked over may be tempting. Alcohol toxicity in dogs may result in lethargy, drooling, vomiting, or may even cause them to collapse. Here’s a helpful guide to determining which types of alcohol may be the most dangerous and may result in a trip to the vet, but in general, keep all alcohol out of your pet’s reach and monitor them closely if you suspect they’ve consumed any amount.

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.

Dog With Christmas Tree, Holiday Safety Tips: How To Keep Your Pets Safe During End-Of-Year Festivities

The Tree

The Christmas tree is a holiday tradition for many – but it can be a nightmare for pet owners. First and foremost, be sure to securely anchor your tree so it does not fall, especially if your pet likes to play near or is tempted to climb 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. You’ll also want to prevent your pet from consuming any fallen pine needles, as they could potentially become lodged in their intestinal tract causing obstruction and a hefty vet bill.

Also, keep your pet away from the tree’s strings of lights. Some pets 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 a wireless electronic indoor pet fence 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 Pet Fences page for more information.

Cat with christmas decorations, Holiday Safety Tips: How To Keep Your Pets Safe During End-Of-Year Festivities

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. A shattered ornament on the ground can also result in damage to your pet’s paw pads. Cat owners should probably avoid tinsel and decorative ribbon altogether since many cats are naturally attracted to these items, and ingestion can cause a dangerous intestinal blockage. If your pet consumes any potentially harmful decorations, contact your vet immediately.

As mentioned above, an Indoor Pet Fence 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.

cat hiding behind table, Holiday Safety Tips: How To Keep Your Pets Safe During End-Of-Year Festivities

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. If you keep your pet separate from the festivities, ensure they have their favorite toys, bowls, and beds available. You should also make sure that you’re frequently checking in on them to avoid any anxiety or destructive behaviors.

dog at new year's eve party, Holiday Safety Tips: How To Keep Your Pets Safe During End-Of-Year Festivities

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 or easily knock the delicate glass to the ground. 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! Make sure that your dog has an up-to-date ID tag and that their microchip information is accurate. You can never be too careful!

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