The holiday season, with all the hustle and bustle, is a joyful time with family, including our four-legged friends. Holiday celebrations are extra special when shared with your pet, but many popular holiday traditions and meals can be dangerous for curious furry pals. Ensure your pets don’t enjoy too much holiday cheer with these four safety tips from your Leawood Plaza Animal Hospital team

#1: Designate a pets-only room during festivities

During busy holiday preparations, such as putting up lights, cooking while dancing to Christmas music, or gathering for a family meal, ensure pets have a safe room or crate where they can relax away from the chaos. Loud music, boisterous conversations, and other holiday sounds such as crackling fires can be stressful to pets, including those who are typically laid back or calm. New Year’s Eve fireworks are especially stressful for some pets and may cause anxiety, behavioral outbursts, hiding, shaking, or whimpering. Ensure that your pet’s designated area is a safe space, and promote a relaxing environment with the following:

  • Soft, calming music
  • A new holiday toy or pet-safe treat
  • A pheromone spray, such as Adaptil or Feliway, to encourage relaxation
  • A cozy pet bed, or a clothing article from their favorite person

Stay calm when interacting with your pet, as they will respond to your emotional state. Also, ask your Leawood Plaza Animal Hospital veterinarian if your pet would benefit from a sedative during extra loud celebrations, especially if they include fireworks. 

#2: Keep pets out the kitchen and away from the dinner table

Prevent begging or counter-surfing pets from requiring an unexpected trip to the animal emergency room. Many popular holiday foods are rich and fatty, and difficult for pets to digest. Sharing your plate with your pet can lead to gastrointestinal (GI) distress and inflammation, including pancreatitis, which is a potentially deadly inflammatory condition that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and dehydration. Food wrappers, scraps, or bones are equally dangerous for pets and can cause GI damage or blockages that may require surgery. Never feed your pet the following: 

  • Onions, garlic, chives, and leeks — Members of the Allium family are toxic to pets, especially cats and Japanese dog breeds. Small amounts can cause life-threatening anemia and red blood cell breakdown. Clinical signs may occur several days after ingestion, including panting, high heart rate, GI upset, and blood in the urine.
  • Raisins and grapes — As few as four raisins or grapes can be toxic to some dogs, leading to kidney failure. Clinical signs can occur up to two hours after ingestion and include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, tremors, and excess urination.
  • Sage, spices, and herbs — These flavorings can be toxic, especially to cats, and result in GI upset or central nervous system depression.
  • Raw dough — Eating unbaked dough can result in painful gas or, in severe cases, intestinal bloating.
  • Casseroles — Animals lack sufficient lactase, which is the enzyme needed to properly digest dairy products, and eating any milk-based product can cause GI upset and diarrhea. Most casserole dishes include milk-based products and should be kept out of your pet’s reach.
  • Chocolate — All chocolates, especially dark and baker’s chocolate, contain caffeine and theobromine, stimulants that can be deadly to dogs. Clinical signs include vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, elevated heart rate, and possible death.
  • Sugar-free treats — Xylitol is present in many sugar-free foods, and in some peanut butters. Small amounts can be toxic and cause liver failure, seizures, and death in some cases. 
  • Alcohol — Foods or beverages containing alcohol can cause a variety of symptoms, including vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, tremors, or death.

#3: Be careful with holiday decor that’s dangerous to pets

Festive decor, Christmas trees, floral centerpieces, and candles transform our homes into a beautiful—but dangerous—winter wonderland. Take these precautions:

  • Candles — Ensure that lighted candles are far out of reach of swatting paws or wagging tails to prevent burned fur or house fires.
  • Potpourri — Avoid using scented candles or potpourri that contain essential oils that can be toxic to pets, especially these oils.
  • Christmas tree — Use caution when putting up Christmas trees, as many pets will want to investigate the colorful ornaments and branches. To prevent tipping trees and pet injuries, secure your Christmas tree to a ceiling or doorway using fishing line.
  • Ornaments — Ensure all fragile decorations are placed high on the tree, to prevent mischievous pets from injuring their paws on broken ornaments.
  • Tinsel — Place tinsel and holiday ribbon out of paws’ reach. These culprits for many feline holiday emergencies can lead to intestinal blockages that often require surgical removal.  

Many holiday plants are toxic when ingested by our furry friends, especially lilies, which are severely toxic to cats. Eating only a small amount of any part of the plant, including the pollen and leaves, can cause drooling, vomiting, and decreased appetite, and lead to kidney failure. The popular poinsettia plant’s sap can irritate your pet’s mouth and throat, and eating the leaves will likely cause nausea and vomiting. In addition to lilies and poinsettias, keep the following out of your pet’s reach:

  • Amaryllis
  • Mistletoe
  • Balsam
  • Pine
  • Cedar
  • Holly
  • Christmas cactus 

#4: Maintain your pet’s exercise and play routines

Avoid behavioral outbursts and prevent accidents by maintaining your pet’s regular exercise and playtime routines at similar times each day. Pets with pent-up energy are more likely to run around the home, leading to increased risk of tumbling decor and pet injuries. Also, maintain their regular feeding schedule to discourage begging or garbage-can investigating. 

Our Leawood Plaza Animal Hospital team wishes you and your furry family members a safe holiday and happy new year. Should your pet get into some unexpected trouble, or if you have any questions about holiday pet hazards, call our office. We are always here to help.