-By Analisa Hurt

The holidays are a joyful time for people and pets, and we want to help you keep it that way! A trip to the emergency vet can put a real damper on your family’s holiday, so be sure to follow these tips to keep your pets safe and healthy.

Keep Your Decor Pet-Friendly

Many popular holiday decorations can harm our pets. While tinsel, plug-in lights, and potpourri seem harmless, they can all cause moderate to severe damage to your pet. If ingested, tinsel and potpourris can severely harm your pet’s intestinal tract, and plug-in light cords can electrocute your pet if they chew them. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) advises that pet owners avoid using tinsel, unplug lights when leaving pets alone, and keep potpourris and essential oils out of reach.

Christmas Tree Safety

If you celebrate Christmas and put up a tree, you know your pet is usually interested in smelling it, playing under it, or drinking the tree water. Make sure your pet does not ingest real or artificial pine needles, as the Humane Society of the U.S. warns these can cause intestinal obstructions. If needed, use a pet repellent like Keep Off! to deter your pets.

To keep your pet from knocking over your tree and getting injured, secure it with fishing line. Do not use additives in your tree water, as they can be toxic to pets when ingested. Standing tree water also contains bacteria that causes gastrointestinal upset, so consider blocking your pet from your tree when you’re away.

Avoid Toxic or Poisonous Holiday Plants

Many of our favorite holiday plants are poisonous, and sometimes fatal, to our pets. Below is a list of plants to either keep out of reach or replace with artificial versions.

- Poinsettias
- Mistletoe
- Holly
- Lilies (can cause kidney failure in cats, which can be fatal).
- Amaryllis
- Pine, Cedar, and Balsam
- Ivy

Don’t Leave Alcohol or ‘People Food’ Out

Do not leave your alcoholic drinks within reach of your pets, and clean up spills immediately. When ingested, alcohol can cause your pet to become weak, ill, and even go into a coma, possibly resulting in death from respiratory failure, according to the ASPCA. 

In general, you should keep all “people food” away from your pet and purchase treats made specifically for them. The following foods can be hazardous for your pets.

  • Chocolate
  • Sweets and baked goods, especially those containing xylitol, which the AVMA says has been linked to liver failure and death in dogs.
  • Turkey or turkey skin. The AVMA states these cause pancreatitis in dogs. 
  • Fatty, spicy, or toxic table scraps. These foods are harder for pets to digest and foods like chives, garlic, onions, coffee, citrus and grapes are even poisonous.

Make Your Holiday Gatherings Safe for Your Pets

Whether your pet is a social butterfly or anxious around guests, you should prepare and advise visitors to ensure things go smoothly. Give your guests a heads up that you have pets, and set rules for interacting with them. (For example, the number-one cause of dog bites is children rough-housing with dogs. Ask guests with children to talk to them beforehand about respecting and being gentle with your pets.) 

Even if your pet isn’t usually nervous, all of the hubbub can be scary. Make sure your pet has a safe place to go, such as a crate or a separate room, if they become frightened. To avoid losing your pet, make sure you and your guest keep an eye when entering and leaving your home. Keep your pet’s tags and microchip up to date in case they escape.

Clear away any leftovers, trash, or alcoholic drinks so your pet doesn’t ingest something they shouldn’t. If you or your guests have medications, make sure everything is secure.

Travel Safely with Your Pets

If you travel for the holidays and board your pet or bring your pet along, make sure you have your pet’s safety in mind. When picking a boarding facility or kennel, do your research and make sure your pet is up to date on their vaccines. Make sure your pet’s collar has a tag with your contact information, and that their microchip is updated.

If you choose to fly with your pet, talk to your vet first. According to AVMA, air travel is unsafe for certain pets, like brachycephalic breeds. Talk to your vet about your travel plans so they can advise you. You may also need them to give you a certificate of health for your pet, depending on your destination.

Be Prepared in Case of an Emergency

If an accident does occur, remember to stay calm but act fast to help your pet. Know where your nearest 24/7 emergency vet clinics are and how to contact them. 

For the Reno/Sparks area our emergency clinics are Sierra Veterinary Specialists and Animal Emergency and Specialty Center. If you travel, research to find the closest emergency clinics to you so you’re prepared.

If your pet ingests hazardous alcohol, plants, or food, contact ASPCA’s poison control hotline at 1-888-426-4435 (A fee may apply).

Follow the above tips, and you and your pets will have a stress-and-accident-free holiday season. From all of us at the SPCA of Northern Nevada, we wish you and your pets a safe and happy holiday!

Learn More!

Read holiday safety tips from the American Veterinary Medical Association.

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Read our guide on responsibly giving pets as gifts!

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