Watch out for these hidden holiday dangers to your pets, from seasonal decor to festive foods

Find out what risks the holidays pose to your pets, and learn what you can do to prevent them

dog with christmas bows
Photo credit: NWphotoguy/Getty Images

‘Tis the season to be merry and bright as we count our blessings and gather to celebrate with friends and family. However, behind all that luscious holiday décor and those trays of delectable Thanksgiving and Christmas treats lurk several hidden dangers that could be hazardous to your pet’s health.

Find out what risks the holidays pose to your pets, and learn what you can do to prevent them. This way, your four-legged friends can enjoy a cozy and safe holiday season too!

Holiday decor

Lights and candles: Keep lights and extension cords out of your curious pets’ reach to avoid choking, burns, or electrocution. If your pet has a chewing habit, taste deterrent sprays are available at most pet supply shops. Also, keep burning candles and hot wax well out of your pets’ reach to avoid burns or a fire disaster.

Christmas tree, gifts and decorations: Tinsel, ribbon, bows, and tape can be a choking hazard, and can also cause digestive tract issues, along with intestinal obstruction.

Do not allow your dog or cat to drink water from the Christmas tree. Tree fertilizer and stagnant water may cause vomiting and diarrhea.

House plants: Mistletoe and holly may seem festive to us, but they can be toxic if ingested — and may cause vomiting, diarrhea, and heart arrhythmia in both cats and dogs. Amaryllis, the festive flowering houseplant — usually bright red or white this time of year — can cause vomiting and diarrhea. (See more plants that are dangerous to pets here.)

Weather & stress

Cold temperatures: If you’re cold, they’re cold. Let your pets indoors or provide outdoor shelter with adequate protection and warmth from the season’s harsh temperatures. You may need to shorten your dog’s walks in extreme weather for both your comfort and safety, and your pets. Arthritic and elderly pets may have more difficulty walking on snow and ice, and may be more prone to slipping and falling. (Find more great tips on protecting your pets during winter here.)

House guests: Constant visitors, house guests, and increased activity at your home can be confusing and stressful for pets. Provide them with a retreat all their own, such as a quiet room away from all the commotion, where they can retreat for a nap and some alone time. Signs of stress in pets is stomach discomfort, decreased appetite, diarrhea, and irritability.

Also, remind your guests that there are pets in the house, and not to leave food or harmful items such as chewing gum, cigarettes, medications, or hand sanitizer within pets’ reach.

Baking & sweets

Within many of the sweet temptations of this holiday season’s goodies lie several harmful toxins.

Grapes and raisins: Even very small amounts of raisins and/or grapes can cause kidney failure in dogs and cats, and if ingested, should be treated immediately as a poisoning case. Watch for symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, a decrease in appetite, and sleepiness.

Xylitol: The artificial sweetener xylitol, which is found in many Keto/sugar-free baked goods, can cause your pet’s blood pressure to drop to dangerously low levels. As a rule of thumb, avoid giving your pet any sweet human treats at all — but don’t let those sad, begging eyes break your heart… check the bottom of this article for a list of holiday foods that you CAN give your pets as a special treat!

Chocolate: The consumption of chocolate in pets can cause agitation, vomiting, diarrhea, high heart rate, tremors, seizures, and even death.

Bread dough: Raw bread dough can be toxic to cats and dogs, so don’t be tempted to give them a nibble as you prepare your homemade biscuits or pie crusts.

Holiday foods

Onions and garlic: Onions and garlic are both toxic to pets and can destroy a dog’s red blood cells. Remember this even after the holidays when you offer your pet a bit of your leftovers… did the sauce contain garlic powder or small bits of onion? It’s better to be safe than sorry — stick to treats made specifically for your pet.

Salty foods: Your pets may be drooling at the sight of ham, gravy and that seasoned turkey skin, but don’t give them a taste. Salty and rich fatty foods may cause pancreatitis.

Bones: Turkey bones, along with those from poultry of any kind, can splinter easily and result in a tear or obstruction in your pet’s intestinal tract.

Things you CAN give your pets

The holidays don’t need to be a total downer for your pets, however! Check out this list of Thanksgiving and Christmas foods that you can offer sparingly to your pets:

  • Turkey (boneless & well-cooked, with no seasoning, sauce or gravy)
  • Plain cooked sweet potatoes
  • Pumpkin, unseasoned
  • Green beans, unseasoned
  • Raw or cooked carrots, unseasoned
  • Raw or cooked apples, unseasoned