Based on an article that first appeared at

The holidays are a joyous time to count your blessings—including the health of your pet! Keep your cat or dog out of trouble with these seasonal safety tips.

DON’T overindulge your pet. A sudden switch from kibble or canned food to a plate full of turkey and stuffing can wreak havoc on your pet’s digestive system, potentially leading to pancreatitis and gastroenteritis. More than just a tummy ache, these conditions can be very painful and even life-threatening to your pet. Some foods are also toxic to dogs and cats, including onions, garlic, grapes and raisins, chocolate, alcohol, coffee, salt, avocado and xylitol (found in many sugar-free candies and gum).

DO offer your pet an appropriate holiday treat. Dogs and cats cannot handle rich, fatty foods like butter, cream and gravy the way humans can, but that doesn’t mean they have to be left out of the festivities completely! Set aside small portions of plain turkey, mashed potatoes and vegetables like carrots or green beans for your pet instead. Just remember to make sure the turkey is well cooked and don’t forget to remove the bones and skin.

DON’T forget to clean up properly. Don’t think your pet is safe just because the food isn’t on the table anymore! One risk that is often overlooked is the disposal of food and wrappings when the big meal is over. It is safest to make sure all trash, including the turkey carcass, is securely tied up and out of reach. Remember that bones can break easily and sharp pieces can be swallowed, causing a blockage or tearing the intestines. All pieces of the carcass should be double-bagged and disposed of outside. Aluminum foil, wax paper and turkey strings should also be kept out of reach. Remember, when used to cook with, these items become just as irresistible to your pet as the food itself!

DO give your pet some space. Even the most outgoing pets can experience stress in social situations. Allow your pet a safe haven from holiday parties and get-togethers by keeping him/her separated from guests in a quiet room of the house. Signs of stress include vocalizing, panting, pacing or trembling. 

Dog Christmas Tree

DON’T break the rules. If you plan on having several guests over the holidays, be sure that everyone knows the dos and don’ts for your pet—including what he/she can eat (Treats? Yes! Table scraps? No!) and whether or not he/she is allowed outside. You’ll want to ensure that your pet also has proper identification, such as a microchip or a collar and tags. The more people in your house, the greater the chances that your pet could inadvertently escape.

DO pet-proof the house. No one wants to seek emergency care for a pet during the holiday season, so be sure your house is hazard-free, especially if you have a curious pet or one who is prone to chewing. Ornaments, hooks, turkey bones, tinsel and wrapping materials, such as ribbons, string and bows, can become lodged within the body when chewed or swallowed. Traditional holiday plants like mistletoe, holly and poinsettias are also toxic to pets. When decorating for the holidays, please be sure to keep these items out of reach.

DON’T let the tree pose a threat to your pet. Be sure to keep the area around your Christmas tree clean. While they may seem harmless, pine needles can actually puncture your pet’s intestines if ingested. Tree water can also result in a tummy ache—or worse, if preservative chemicals are added to it. The artificial snow sprayed on some Christmas trees can also be toxic to pets if ingested. If you have pets in the home, it is strongly recommended not to purchase this type of tree.

DO monitor pets around open flames. Fireplaces are dangerous places for wagging tails. Candles should also be kept out of reach of curious pets who can burn themselves or start a fire if the candle is knocked over.

DON’T leave cords exposed. Electrical cords and wires are a big hazard for pets around the holidays. Be sure to purchase covers for all exposed cords or simply tape cords against the wall to discourage chewing, which can result in shock or electrocution.