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Dogs and Cats Over the Holidays - Keep Them Safe!

Updated on July 12, 2011

Keeping Dogs and Cats Safe Over the Holidays

As much as I think I know and remember about dogs in particular, I just had this happen last night. It would appear we have forgotten about certain puppy behaviors as it has been so many years since we have had puppies in our house - let alone during the holidays. My bad!

The main thing I had forgotten was about puppy tails that wag as they pass things and although the rest of the house is pretty much puppy-proof now the Christmas tree was not! When The Griff ran past the Christmas tree resplendent in its red balls and white lights last night, his tail caught about 3 balls and sent them flying – and he was flying right behind them. Since we have tile floors, they did not bounce well and shattered on impact some distance away I might add - which he reached before me and then proceeded to try and EAT first, and walk on second! Yikes!

Pictures by Audrey Kirchner
Pictures by Audrey Kirchner

Safety and Pets During the Holidays

In an effort to lessen the holiday madness for us both, Bob went on line today and found some of these helpful hints for us to study and then I added yet more from my research. These could benefit any pet owner though as sometimes I think unless we reread or relearn something, it doesn't always stick. You can find more tips at many sources because they appear to be all over the place at this time of year. Please take the time to read them anywhere that you find them as it could save your pet or at the very least, save you a huge vet bill! Also as several sources point out, you need to beware of friends or family sabotaging you as well - if they happen to be misinformed about what things are good for pets or okay to feed them!



Obviously those glass ornaments are not good on the intestines so you do not want them at puppy level or cat level – watch those tails! For years we had Labradors and it was like winding up a bat when their sausage tails hit a ball and launched it across the room – HOME RUN! Or when the labs were puppies, they took one fiberglass ball off and proceeded to chew on it like a tennis ball.

If they ingest the ornaments, make sure you know what kind of material it was, glass, fiberglass, etc.

If they walk on them, you will need to check paws for cuts and/or embedded pieces. My solution this year is to move all the ornaments UP and remove any at Griffin tail height and keep on eye on him to make sure that he does not try to chew on one. He does not seem particularly interested in eating them off the tree (yet) but anything falling on the ground into pieces seems to get him very excited about picking up and putting said pieces in his mouth! Not a good thing if it happens to be a glass ornament or three!

If you find your pet chewing on bubble lights, you need to call someone immediately. I did not know this but the little bubble lights contain methylene chloride which can cause irritation to the eyes, skin, lungs and intestines.


With a puppy in the house again, we are quickly learning not to leave anything within Griffin reach and since he is huge, that is becoming a challenge. Yesterday, he got an English muffin AND an entire loaf of bread. That said, foods that can be deadly alone or if contained in foods or may cause severe problems such as kidney failure, stomach upset, heart irregular rhythms, and seizures:

  • Grapes
  • Raisins
  • Currants
  • Chocolate

Also inform any guests - we have been there and done that. Our malamute Kodi because of his Addison's and allergies was on a very special diet and when our son visited a year or so ago, he was cooking many foods for us including venison and other various and sundry meats. He thought he was doing our dog such a huge favor by slipping him scraps and bones (after I had warned him specifically not to of course). Kodi went into total GI distress over it as he could not process the foods. Contrary to some folks' belief, bones, fat, raw meat is not part of our usual pet diets and can be extremely detrimental to their health.

During the holidays, it is especially important to make sure your pets stay on the same diet that they are used to. Giving them ‘extra’ or ‘treats’ because it is the holiday can often have a very negative effect – and any guests should know that as well. Leaving things easily accessible to puppies or young animals is also very dangerous. Make sure you have secured your pets if you cannot keep a super close eye on what they are grabbing - from people or from coffee tables, children's hands, etc. Last Thanksgiving we discovered our friends’ golden retriever having a feast in the trash can that someone had left out – not a good thing afterward as it had the turkey carcass in it for one thing! The best of pets cannot help themselves if the temptation is made available.

Contrary to what some folks think, giving animals alcohol is NOT funny and it is not good for them! I would put it on a level with giving your children alcohol so you could laugh about it later. However, I have had folks joke about giving their dogs liquor, beer or wine and laughing because it makes them 'tipsy' and how a little bit can't harm them. It doesn't break down the same way in dogs as in humans for example and the thing that seemed so funny might turn out to be not so funny if the dog becomes disoriented and does something he or she would never do in ordinary circumstances such as bite. There are just some things that we should not do and that in my opinion is one of them.


While liquid potpourri might be a nice addition to the ambiance, it can be especially deadly for cats. Leaving scented oils in a simmer pot can cause serious problems. I would not even consider it or dry potpourri or decorations with any kinds of chemicals attached to them with The Griffin on the loose. A few licks can cause chemical burns to their mouth, fever, difficulty breathing and tremors. Use nontoxic candles and even then keeping well out of reach of big paws and big incisors! My daughter’s 13-pound puggle that was visiting for Thanksgiving managed to find my little votive candles and was happy to begin gnawing on them – luckily we caught her right away. It is just TOO tempting. They were on a table which was at least twice her size but somehow she found them.

I’m thinking that some of the holiday ‘stuff’ just isn’t that important to display in comparison to keeping my pet safe this year. Since he is a puppy, I would much rather relax and enjoy the season rather than taking a chance on poisoning him or harming him in some way by just not being aware of what he got into. I think in a year or so, it will all be good and we can decorate to our hearts’ content but for the moment, it seems most important to keep him safe. There are enough day to day things that we have to watch him with or keep an eye out that he does not get into and adding extra things is like inviting a disaster.


Poinsettias are reportedly very dangerous but according to the plant that looks so innocent - the lily - is actually the one you want to take a care with. It is highly toxic to cats especially. If a cat chews just ONE leaf, it can result in severe, acute kidney failure. Holly and mistletoe would probably be easily viewed as food for puppies if left where they could grab them. These can result in stomach upset or heart rhythm problems. Go with silk or plastic flowers instead, much safer though I imagine the passage of these might result in stomach upset as well!

For cat people, tinsel can be a powerful draw for cats. I vaguely remember this like 100 years ago when I had cats! I have never used it since! It can cause stomach upsets. It can actually get caught on their tongue or wrapped in parts of their stomach as it tries to pass through and can result in expensive intestinal surgery.

The article Bob printed off for me recommended keeping these numbers handy and programmed into our phones – not a bad idea!

If you think your pet has ingested something toxic, call your pet poison animal control or your vet emergency number to investigate. Don’t wait to see if it will be okay.

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center 888-426-4435 (this costs $60 per incident) – their website –

Pet Poison Helpline 800-213-6680 (this costs $35 per incident) – their website

Naya Says You Can Purchase Here On Amazon

A Few More Things To Watch Out For

  • Snow globes - they are finding that these have antifreeze in them and if broken and lapped up, major problem
  • Foil - not appropriate for dogs or cats to ingest as it can act like a razor in their stomach
  • Candies - left out in dishes easily accessible to pets. They will gobble them up and most likely make themselves sick as well...dogs. Also the foil warning as above - think of Hershey's kisses - a veritable landmine of foil!
  • Stick with ornaments if you can that are wood or metal if you put them on lower branches
  • Avoid using metal ornament hangers as these are small pieces of wire that can be easily ingested but can cause a multitude of problems going through the intestine and in some cases do not make it out so require surgical removal
  • Cover electric cords - dangers of tripping over them or pulling something down on a pet exist as well as the chew hazard
  • Burns - that nice pan of drippings you left on the stove could prove deadly to a cat or dog investigating what happens to be in that pan! Always make sure your pet is well protected when there is a lot of bustle going on or a lot of people underfoot
  • Drippings - again - not good for dogs or cats in even small amounts - there is no need to vary a pet's diet during the holidays. They will not know the difference and in fact, you may be setting yourself up for a vet bill if they become ill
  • Spun glass or angel hair - if ingested can cause irritation of the intestines but can cause severe irritation to skin and eyes
  • Fake snow and snow flock - again not worth the irritation and stomach upset of ingesting
  • Ribbons and bows should be kept out of pet's reach
  • Tying your pet up in bows and/or costumes, bells, etc - take a care here as if the ties become too tight, there can be serious consequences such as even loss of a limb or death if you were unaware that there was strangulation going on. As you can see, I put antlers and hats on my dogs - but that is only while I am taking their picture - they come off immediately and go into a bag up in the closet as there are bells and small parts on them that could be ingested or parts that could hypothetically wrap too tight
  • Remember to check the weather - especially right now we are having Siberia like temperatures and as busy as folks get over the holidays, it is easier to forget our pets and their needs.
  • Those firecrackers and noisemakers for New Year's - that is how many pet anxieties about noise get started and never go away.  Loud noises can be extremely frightening for some pets under the best of circumstances so have a care for your pet here and make sure that they are somewhere safe and relatively stress-free if you are going to have loud celebrations.  You may be grateful come July 4th - we have one malamute who is absolutely terrified of gunshots and any loud noises and have gone to a great many lengths to desensitize her all to no avail. 
  • Make sure they have fresh water, they are kept in appropriate circumstances to THEIR breed and that they receive love, love, love. That is what the holidays should be about in my humble opinion, so keep it simple, keep it basic and with these tips in mind, hopefully you will have many more years with your pet to enjoy.
  • Statistics say that 6-8 weeks before and after Halloween is an extremely dangerous time for most pets, in part due to weather, in part due to accidental poisonings, accidents, illnesses brought on by all the above, etc. Let's all work to get those stats down! These pets are our responsibility and we should make it a concerted effort to make sure they are protected.



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