Holiday Hazards You Need to Know About Right Now

Family, food and fun — it’s the definition of the holidays. But if you’re not careful around this time of year all this good stuff could spell serious trouble for your pet.

How’s this for proof: the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center experiences a 10 to 15 percent increase in calls in the weeks around Christmas.

“Chocolate is the number one cause around the holidays, but we also get lots of calls about cold medications and rodenticides,” says the center’s medical director, Dr. Tina Wismer.

So, before you get carried away with all that merriment and eggnog, make sure your best buddy is safe by following these important safety tips compiled by the ASPCA.

Choose pet-safe holiday decor.

We’ve all seen National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation — it’s no secret that cats like to climb trees, eat tinsel and explore electric holiday lights. That’s why it’s so critical to keep that Frasier fir secure, and keep wires and tinsel out of their reach, the ASPCA warns.

Additionally, tree water could contain fertilizer that can cause stomach aches, and worse yet, stagnant tree water can cause nausea or diarrhea — so keep pets away from that area. If swallowed, tinsel can obstruct the digestive tract and make cats ill (so can ribbon and string confetti). 

Holly and mistletoe can make pets sick if ingested and lilies can cause kidney failure in felines. Last, but not least, candles are a fire hazard waiting to happen with curious kitties in tow, so blow them out before something bad happens.

Think about all that food and drink.

While leftovers may seems like a good treat for your furry friends, there are so many reasons not to put the plate on the floor. “Some human foods can actually be toxic to pets,” says Wismer. “For example, grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure in dogs.  Too much garlic or onions can cause anemia (low red blood cells) in dogs and cats.  Many human foods are high in fat compared to the normal diet of pets.  This can put them at risk for vomiting, diarrhea and pancreatitis.”

Chocolate is toxic to pets, so keep sweets somewhere safe, and if you’re enjoying alcoholic beverages make sure no one sneaks a slurp when you’re not looking. The ASPCA says that alcohol can cause weakness, possible coma and even death from respiratory failure.

Parties aren’t for everyone, so designate a quiet zone.

Hey, not everyone can stay up until the ball drops in Times Square! Giving your pet a place to retreat during holiday gatherings is just the right thing to do.

If you have guests staying in your house, make sure they keep medications, chocolate, or products sweetened with xylitol in a place that pets can’t reach, since all can cause emergency veterinary visits — and even death — if ingested.

On New Years, when noise makers and fireworks are often in use, give your pal a place to hide from it all. Loud noises can be terrifying for animals, so take the time to check on them and make sure they’re okay.

While some pets like to be in the middle of the action, it can be stressful for many others,” Wismer explains. “In addition, while you may know what is dangerous for your pet, your guests may not. Providing your pet with an area away from crowds, potentially dangerous foods, alcoholic drinks, open doors, and decorations can help them to stay relaxed and safe.”

For more tips holidays safety tips, visit the ASPCA’s website.

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Amy Jamieson

A former senior editor for, Amy launched People Pets for People magazine in 2008. Now she writes about pets, lifestyle and more from her bucolic saltbox in Collinsville, Connecticut, usually with a cat in her lap and a dog at her feet.

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