As you jingle all the way into the Christmas season, take steps to ensure your pet is safe during the holidays. Our team at Columbia Pike Animal Hospital wants to provide do’s and don’ts that will help keep your pet protected this Christmas.

DO safeguard your pet by stabilizing your Christmas tree

If your cat decides to climb the tree or your dog’s enthusiastic wagging tail gets too close, the tree could topple, possibly resulting in injury. Ensure the tree base is stabilized in a sturdy tree stand, and also consider tying the tree top or sides to a hook in the ceiling or the adjacent wall. Placing your tree in a corner will also help it to be more secure.

DON’T tempt your pet by decorating the bottom part of the Christmas tree

Shiny ornaments and sparkling lights are extremely tempting to curious pets. However, glass and plastic ornaments can easily be broken, and the resulting shards could lacerate your pet. In addition, electrical lights can shock your pet if they chew on the cords. By not decorating the bottom part of the tree, you can avoid providing easy-to-reach lights or ornaments that may entice your pet.

DO use a pet gate to block off the Christmas tree

Consider blocking off the Christmas tree with a pet gate, to prevent your pet from investigating your gifts, and potentially ingesting wrapping paper or ribbons that could cause a gastrointestinal (GI) blockage. In addition, the tree water can contain fertilizers and dangerous bacteria that could harm your pet. 

DON’T leave your pet outside in the cold

Cold temperatures can be dangerous for pets, who should never be left unattended in inclement weather for any period. Potential dangers include:

  • Frostbite — When the temperature falls below 32 degrees, your pet’s blood is redirected from their extremities toward their vital organs. Blood flow to areas such as their nose, ears, paws, and tail, is decreased, which can lead to tissue damage. Signs include pain, swelling, blisters, or discoloration in the affected area. While frostbite is not typically life-threatening, the condition is often followed by hypothermia, which can be fatal.
  • Hypothermia — Normal body temperature for pets is about 101.5 degrees. When their temperature drops below 99 degrees, they are in the early stages of hypothermia. Initial signs include shivering, lethargy, muscle stiffness, and pale mucous membranes. As the hypothermia progresses, signs include dilated pupils, irregular heart and respiratory rates, collapse, and potentially death.

DO choose pet friendly Christmas decorations

As you make your home merry and bright for the holiday season, choose decorations that won’t harm your pet. Decorations to avoid include:

  • Candles — Lit candles can easily be knocked over by a curious cat’s paw swipe, or an oblivious dog’s tail wag. Use flameless LED candles to prevent burns or fires.
  • Tinsel — Pets, especially cats, are attracted to shiny tinsel decorations. If ingested, tinsel can cause a linear foreign body GI obstruction, a dangerous condition that can lead to intestinal perforation, likely requiring surgery to remove the tinsel from your pet.

DON’T use decorative plants that are toxic to pets

Many decorative plants and flowers are toxic to pets. Ensure the greenery you use to deck your holiday halls are safe for your pet. Toxic plants include:

  • Mistletoe — When ingested, mistletoe berries can cause GI irritation, or incoordination, abnormal heart rate, seizures, and collapse in severe cases.
  • Holly — All parts of the holly plant are considered toxic to pets. Signs include vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and depression.
  • Amaryllis — If your pet eats the foliage or flower, their signs may include drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea. If the bulb is eaten, signs include weakness, incoordination, and seizures.
  • Lilies — Many varieties of lilies are toxic to pets, especially cats, causing GI upset and kidney failure.

If you know or suspect your pet has ingested a toxic plant or substance, immediately contact Columbia Pike Animal Hospital or Animal Poison Control.

DO keep your pet away from the Christmas stockings

Gifts in Christmas stockings are frequently problematic for pets.

  • Chocolate — Treats containing chocolate are toxic to pets, causing nervous system stimulation. Signs include restlessness, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Xylitol — Sugar-free treats may contain xylitol, a sugar substitute that causes a sudden insulin release in pets, leading to a profound drop in glucose levels. Signs include weakness, incoordination, and seizures.
  • Small toys — Curious pets can easily ingest small stocking stuffers, resulting in a GI obstruction.

DON’T allow your pet to partake in the Christmas feast

The decadent foods served during the holidays can be dangerous for your pet. Any sudden high-fat meal can trigger pancreatitis, a potentially life-threatening condition. In addition, several holiday dishes are dangerous for your pet.

  • Turkey bones — When cooked, turkey bones become extremely brittle and can splinter easily, injuring your pet’s mouth or esophagus.
  • Onions — Vegetables in the Allium family, which include onions, garlics, leeks, chives, and shallots, are toxic to pets, and result in anemia. Signs include lethargy, vomiting, and pale mucous membranes.
  • Grapes — Grapes and raisins are toxic to pets, resulting in kidney failure.

DO enjoy your holiday season by following our pet safety advice. But, should your pet encounter a medical problem during the holiday festivities, DON’T hesitate to contact our Columbia Pike Animal Hospital team.