Featured image for post: 10 Holiday Hazards to Avoid if You Have Pets

10 Holiday Hazards to Avoid if You Have Pets

The holiday season should be a time full of joy, friends and family, beautiful decorations, and amazing food. But to curious dogs and cats, it may also mean tempting table scraps and upset stomachs, and dangerous décor items. Plus, noises from gatherings and fireworks can be scary to pets.

With a little planning, you can help your furry friend avoid these holiday hazards, and keep the holiday festivities joyful, safe, and fun for everyone!

Here are 10 ways to keep your furkids safe this holiday season:

Christmas tree tips:

Secure your tree in a sturdy holder or anchor, so active dogs and climbing cats can’t knock it over. Also, don’t let your furry friends drink from the tree water, which can contain fertilizers, bacteria, and toxic additives that are used to preserve trees.

Consider placing the tree in a room where you can close the door and block access, behind a playpen barrier, or even using an artificial tree.

Lights, ornaments, and more:

Christmas lights present a risk of electric shocks or burns if your buddy bites into the lights or the cord. Plus, there’s a risk of little ones getting entangled.

For ornaments, don’t let your pal have access to glass items that could break into sharp shards, or small pieces that could be swallowed and cause an intestinal blockage.

In general, try to place these decorations out of reach of curious pets. This could mean keeping the lower branches of your tree free of lights and certain kinds of ornaments, buying cord covers for any sections of cord on the floor, or keeping Santa’s Village and other decorations on a high shelf your pal can’t reach.

Tinsel and stringy things:

Tinsel may look beautiful, and ribbons or strings may make fun toys for kitties. However, any string-like decorations or toys present a risk to pets, especially cats. If swallowed (which is common and happens accidentally during play), these items can cause an intestinal obstruction that requires emergency surgery.

However, you can avoid this danger by electing not to decorate with tinsel, and by supervising playtime with string toys or ribbons.

Seasonal plants:

Poinsettias can cause nausea and vomiting if ingested. Holly causes even more severe stomach upset. Mistletoe leads to not only an upset stomach, but also an abnormal heart rate, collapse, seizures, and even death if ingested in large amounts. For these reasons, it’s best to avoid decorating your home with these plants. Or, if you must do so, keep them high up and out of reach of curious noses—and have a wide shelf underneath them so leaves won’t fall to the floor.

Lilies are especially toxic, leading to kidney failure in cats. In general, lilies are best avoided if you have pets.

Festive foods:

Whether it’s a party platter full of cheese and crackers, or a main dish of turkey or ham, there’s a good chance your furry pal will want to share in the feast. However, certain people foods—especially anything spicy, creamy, or with bones—can lead to vomiting and diarrhea, a punctured digestive tract from bone shards, and more. Very fatty foods also present a risk of upset stomach or potentially-fatal pancreatitis, especially for dogs.

For a safer alternative, try a small piece of plain, lean meat with no seasonings or sugar added. Or, offer a little bit of plain, cooked sweet potato (no butter or marshmallows!). Be sure to check with your vet first if your pal has a sensitive stomach or food allergies. Secure your trash cans, too, to block your pets from digging for scraps.

Sweet treats and baked goods:

It’s never a good idea to offer your dog or cat sweets, even if they’re giving you the “puppy eyes.” Not only are their digestive tracts not designed to handle a lot of sugar, but certain sweets—especially chocolate and anything with the artificial sweetener xylitol—can be very toxic and even fatal to pets. When baking, also take measures to prevent your pet from eating raw dough, which can cause stomach upset and dangerous bloating.

But that doesn’t mean your pal has to miss out on the fun! As a safe alternative, offer a special treat from the local pet store, or pet bakery. Consider looking up your own pet-safe recipes, too.


Burning candles may look beautiful, but can present a risk of burns to your pet, or a fire hazard if knocked over. Practice candle safety by keeping these decorations out of reach of pets on sturdy shelves or holders, and by blowing candles out when you leave a room.

Party planning:

Some pets love social gatherings, but for others, the noise and commotion can be overwhelming. When stressed, even normally well-behaved pets can react by biting, or by trying to bolt out the door to escape the scary noise.

Avoid this problem by offering your pooch or kitty a quiet room of their own, away from the revelry. Be sure they have water and a comfy place to hide, whether that’s in a kennel with a blanket, or under the bed.

Fireworks safety:

Noise makers and fireworks can be even scarier than the sounds of a party. If you have a dog or cat that reacts fearfully loud noises, follow the advice above to give them a quiet, safe place to wait it out. Be sure the space is closed so that a sudden disturbance won’t cause a panicked pal to flee outdoors and get lost. And for furkids with severe noise anxiety, talk to your vet about safe medications or supplements to help them get through New Year’s Eve more comfortably.

Fortunately—with a little bit of planning and some knowledge of what to avoid—you can prevent accidents, minimize dangers, and keep the holidays safe and fun for everybody.

But, if you have any questions or have a pet that needs help, our local urgent care veterinarians in Westchase-Tampa, Belmont & Fort Mill are here to help you through any holiday mishaps. Our UrgentVet clinics are open after hours and on weekends, including holidays, to help with any issues that may come up. That way, your furry friend can start feeling better fast, rather than waiting until after the holiday.

Wishing you and your furry best friend a healthy, safe, enjoyable holiday season, from our UrgentVet family to yours!