Keeping Your Pets Safe at Christmas

Cat looking at Christmas Lights
Courtesy of Adorable Animal Photography

Christmas is a beautiful time of year filled with lights, decorations, music parties and meals spent with friends and family. It is a time of distraction with lots to do and not as much time to relax and keep an eye on what everyone is up to.

Christmas is also a time of wonderment for your dog or cat with new things to explore that they do not normally see in their day-to-day lives. Glittery things, things that light up and blink, new smells from holiday candles and, of course, all of the goodies in the kitchen that go along with the holiday will appeal to their senses and encourage them to investigate and see how these things fit in their world and, of course, whether they are good to eat!

Keeping pets safe from Christmas decorations

Many of our typical holiday decorations can cause havoc on our dogs or cats’ digestive system if ingested, and many of them can cause serious illness to your pet and should be put in safe places away from curious minds.

Tinsel – can you imaging what this will do to a cat’s stomach and intestine if eaten? Eating or even licking tinsel can lead to a very unpleasant stomach.

Snow globes – many imported snow globes contain antifreeze which can cause kidney failure and even death. If you have them, put them where they cannot wind up broken on the floor.

Lights and Batteries – those beautiful fairy lights you use for decorating garlands and other decorations can be harmful to a cat or dog who decides they need to be chewed so as to understand how they work. Keep these out of reach of inquisitive minds.

Poinsettias, Mistletoe and Ivy – the leaves from poinsettias can cause your dog stomach upset and/or diarrhea if eaten in large quantity. Berries from mistletoe contain polysaccharides, alkaloids, and lectins. When eaten, mistletoe can result in drooling, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Eating ivy will cause the same symptoms. Certainly, this will go a long way in ruining Christmas.

Candles – light these only when you are in the room as they can be easily knocked over and cause a fire hazard. Keep these out of reach from larger dogs who tend to eat everything they come in contact with. Some Labs and Golden Retrievers are famous for this.

Salt and Dough Ornaments – although ornaments made from salt dough don’t smell particularly appealing to us, your dog or cat may think differently. Salt toxicosis can result from eating these ornaments, so hand them high on the tree.

Salt poisoning in dogs and cats can result in vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetite, lethargy, excessive thirst or urination and coordination issues. In severe cases, tremors, seizures, coma, and even death are possible. No salt for your furry friend, ever.

Wrapping Paper – clean up bits and pieces of ribbon and wrapping paper that hit the deck when you wrap gifts. If it looks pretty, it must taste good, right?

Keeping your pets safe from Christmas foods


Making cookies and other Christmas goodies is part of a traditional holiday for many pet owners and, the smells that you create in the kitchen are simply irresistible to our furry friends. You can bet they will be waiting to taste your creations.

Here are foods that you need to keep away from your dog and cat to keep them safe at Christmas and here are the reasons why.

Artificial Sweeteners – many bakers cutting back on sugar will find or create recipes for Christmas cakes and cookies that use artificial sweeteners. These contain Xylitol which, even small amounts, can cause low blood sugar), seizures, liver failure or even death in dogs. There are many recipes on the Internet for cookies that are safe for dogs at Christmas.

Chocolate – theo bromide, which is contained in chocolate, can cause muscle tremors, seizures, an irregular heartbeat, internal bleeding or a heart attack.

Grapes and Raisins – keep both of these far away from your dog and cat. Eating these can cause acute kidney failure and even death.

Garlic, Chives and Onions – garlic is a no-no as it is from the allium family and is poisonous to dogs and cats. Onions contain an ingredient called thiosulphate which is also toxic to cats and dogs. It can cause red blood cells in your dog or cat to burst. That certainly gets our attention, right?

Macadamia Nuts – these little jewels are so good and many pet owners splurge on them for the holidays. No slipping one to your dog or cat. Eating macadamia nuts can cause weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors and hypothermia in dogs.

Blue Cheese (such as Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Stilton, etc.) – aside from being high in fat and salt, blue cheese contains roque fortine, a mycotoxin that is naturally produced by various fungi. Why would we want to add mold to our pet’s diet?

Other tips for keeping your pets safe at Christmas

Make the rules clear to your guests: no feeding your pets anything except treats that you have made available for them. Bag up special treats for them before everyone arrives. Guests will love to give your pet a special treat, and it is great way to introduce them to your cat or dog. Whether a small piece of plain cheese, dog or cat treat, carrot or biscuit that you have broken up, it is better than your guests slipping them what they think will make your pet happy.

Christmas libations for your pets are out. Gather up any glasses left unattended and watch out for those punch bowls Alcohol can be deadly for a dog or cat.

Salty, spicy and fatty foods should stay on your plate. They are too rich for your dog or cat’s digestive system and who wants to clean that up in front of your guests while dressed in holiday garb?

Close garbage cans securely. Scavengers work fast and cleaning up garbage spilled all over your kitchen floor is no fun.

Make sure that your pet has a safe place to retreat to if things get overwhelming. Consider confining them if they are not properly trained to behave, hyper, aggressive, territorial or just plain shy around groups of people.

Exercise your pet before the gathering arrives, if possible. A tired dog will be more likely to be less active during the merriment.

Some simple adjustments can go a long way when keeping your pets safe at Christmas. No one wants to rush their best friend to an emergency hospital during the holidays or any other time for that matter.


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