Here we are at the end of the year—it’s time to celebrate! For those of us who live with furry friends, we need to be certain that our festivities are safe for every family member. There are some surprising hazards that pop up during the “silly season” that may be perfectly safe for people, but not for pets.

Here are some of the most common household hazards we see dogs and cats affected by in the holiday season, and some tips to keep your festivities fur-kid friendly:

1. Chocolate
Most people living with canine companions know that chocolate is unsafe for Fido, but this risk can be even greater with the addition of alcohol to chocolates in treats like brandy beans or Bailey’s chocolates. To avoid this risk, simply keep your snacks well out of reach of curious snouts. No matter how well behaved your pooch may be, it isn’t worth the risk to leave such foods unattended in dog-accessible locations. The toxic potential of chocolate is directly related to the amount of cocoa, which contains theobromine, caffeine and methylxanthine. Even just 1 milk chocolate bar (50g) can contain enough cocoa to make a 10 lb. dog sick. While not the same, vegetable trays can be festive, healthy, and safe for everyone to partake in.

2. Tinsel
Cats are naturally curious creatures and they just love sparkly tinsel, but it sure doesn’t love them back. Tinsel is a common cause of gastrointestinal obstruction at this time of year, so better not to risk it and enjoy the holiday decorations minus this hazard.

3. Seasonal plants
Poinsettias are quite well known as being unsafe for pets, but did you know other seasonal plants like mistletoe, holly, amaryllis and lilies are also toxic? Poinsettias, amaryllis, mistletoe and holly can all cause gastrointestinal upset, while mistletoe can also cause heart complications. For cats, lilies are particularly dangerous, even their pollen or the water they are sitting in can be problematic, causing kidney damage for unlucky kitties. Opt instead for equally-colorful but safer plants like Christmas cactus, arrowroot or silver berry.

4. Candles
They’re classically beautiful, but candles pose fire and burn hazards for pets. Happy wagging tails can spread flames, while sensitive paws, noses and whiskers are easily burnt. Be sure to place candles out of reach of inquisitive dogs and cats, and never leave candles burning unattended. Twinkling lights can give the same effect as candles, without the burn risk.

With all these holiday “don’t”s, let’s also focus on a few holiday “do”s! Be sure to include your furry family in the festivities—encourage animal-loving guests to play or pamper your companions, and also provide some nice quiet spaces for them to relax in. Dog walks with family and friends can be very social affairs, or a chance to escape for a couple quiet hours! Of course, always feel free to stuff you pets’ stockings with healthy surprises like Vegan Peanut n’ Pumpkin Dog Treats or Freeze-Dried Wild Salmon Cat and Dog Treats!

Happy Holidays!!

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About the Author

Dr. Sarah Dodd

Dr. Sarah Dodd is a veterinarian with a special focus on companion animal nutrition. Her studies have taken her around the world living in England, Scotland, New Zealand, Australia, the United States of America and Canada – where she currently reside with her three happy rescue dogs Peppa, Dottie and Timmy.

She graduated from veterinary school in 2016, since then she has pursued her passion in nutrition with a clinical nutrition internship and a Master’s degree at the Ontario Veterinary College. She is currently completing her nutrition residency with the European College of Veterinary and Comparative Nutrition and enrolled in a PhD studying plant-based diets for pets.