Sparkling lights, cozy fires, and holiday sweets fill our homes each year from November to January as we prepare for the new year of possibilities. While it may be the most wonderful time of the year, many holiday festivities and traditions can turn dangerous for pets. Ensure your pets are safe for the new year and beyond by following these five safety tips from your Johnson County Animal Clinic veterinarians. 

#1: Avoid sharing your holiday plate with your pet

From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day can seem like one never-ending meal. The tempting smells from an active kitchen can be difficult for pets—and most humans—to resist. We understand that it’s impossible to ignore your furry friends staring at delicious plates with longing eyes, but most holiday foods are rich and fatty, and therefore difficult for pets to digest. Pets lack the proper enzymes to digest most people food, and ingestion can result in gastrointestinal (GI) distress, inflammation, or potentially deadly pancreatitis. Clinical signs include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and dehydration. Additionally, feeding your pet uncooked meat, raw eggs, or bones can result in bacterial infections, as well as intestinal blockages that may require surgery. If your pet counter surfs, despite your best efforts to keep them out of the kitchen, check this list to ensure the food they ate wasn’t toxic to pets. 

#2: Keep alcohol away from pets

Champagne toasts and holiday chocolates are often a celebration staple, but sharing your toast with your pet will be less than cheerful. Alcohol is extremely toxic to pets and as little as one ounce can be deadly to a small dog or cat. Also, beware of alcohol that may be less obvious, in fruit cakes or other holiday desserts, for example. Clinical signs of alcohol ingestion include vomiting, depression, unsteady walking, and low blood pressure in some cases. If your pet mistakes your drink for their water bowl, immediately call our office, or the ASPCA Poison Control if it’s after hours.

#3: Don’t let your holiday decor be dangerous to pets

Decorations are the perfect way to transform your home to a holiday wonderland. However, colorful lights, candles, and trees with shiny ornaments can tempt curious four-legged family members. Beware of the following decorating dangers:

  • Christmas tree — Ensure the tree is secured to a wall or ceiling to prevent pet injury from a falling tree. 
  • Christmas tree preservatives — Pets may mistake Christmas tree water for their water bowls. Never use water additives, as most are toxic to pets. 
  • Christmas tree ornaments Place breakable and handmade ornaments high on the tree to prevent pet injury from shattered glass, or illness from eating salt dough ornaments. 
  • Scented candles and potpourri — Keep candles out of your pet’s reach to prevent swatting paws from knocking them over and fur being burned, or causing a house fire. Most scented candles and potpourri contain essential oils that are toxic and potentially deadly to pets. Review the list of dangerous essential oils here. 
  • Tinsel and holiday ribbon Feline friends often mistake tinsel and ribbon for toys, but they can cause GI distress or blockage that may require surgery if swallowed. Ensure that all tinsel is kept high on the tree and out of paws’ reach, and that holiday ribbons are stored away from curious cats. 

#4: Be aware of pet-toxic holiday plants

Certain festive plants and flowers can lead to an unexpected trip to the veterinary emergency room if pets eat them. Lilies are especially toxic to cats and can cause kidney failure, while other holiday plants, including holly and mistletoe, can cause GI distress and, rarely, heart problems. The popular poinsettia can cause GI distress and be lethal if large amounts are consumed. Other toxic holiday plants include: 

  • Amaryllis
  • Balsam
  • Pine
  • Cedar
  • Christmas cactus 

#5: Prepare pets for festive celebrations

Holiday music, loud conversations, and especially New Year’s Eve fireworks can be stressful to pets, including those who are typically laid back or calm. Prior to the celebrations, set up a pet-safe room or crate where you pet will be comfortable during parties and meal times. Play soft music and provide a special toy to distract your pet from any stressful sounds. For extra-anxious pets, consider a pheromone such as Adaptil or Feliway to encourage relaxation and provide a calm environment. If your pet is typically anxious during July Fourth fireworks, talk to your Johnson County Animal Clinic veterinarian, who may prescribe a sedative for your pet to take prior to New Year’s Eve fireworks. 

Our Johnson County Animal Clinic team wishes you and your four-legged family members a safe and joyful holiday season. However, we know mischievous pets can sometimes get into holiday trouble, despite all your safety measures. If you do have an unexpected pet emergency, or if you have any questions about keeping your pets safe this holiday season, call our office. We are always here to help.