12 Days of Holiday Pet Safety Tips | PetFirst
12 Days of Holiday Pet Safety Tips
Pet Care & Health

12 Days of Holiday Pet Safety Tips

by PetFirst Pet Insurance
4 months ago

Every holiday season brings new sights, smells, objects, and activities into your home and your pet’s space.  

It’s important to think about this season, filled with traditions and fun, from your pet’s point of view. Shiny objects dangle from all around, food is abundant, and people sing greetings. While these holiday sights, smells, and sounds may be exciting to our four-legged friends, their perspective on how to deal may differ from ours.

Keep reading as we discuss 12 ways you can help keep your furry friends safe during the holiday season!

Day One: The Tree

If you celebrate by setting up a tree inside your home, it is important that you consider the following tips if you have animals around the house: 

  • Choose an out-of-the-way location for the holiday tree – not in the window Fido watches for the mailman from or the windowsill on which Fluffy takes her afternoon nap.
  • Anchor the tree to a wall or ceiling hook if your cat might consider it a feline jungle gym. 
  • If using a real tree, cover the water basin with foil or a plastic lid to prevent pets from taking a drink – preservatives as well as tree sap and bacteria can cause tummy aches. 
  • Placing a decorative picket fence around the tree may also do the trick for keeping pets to stay away.  
  • Anything with “bumps” (i.e. upside down car mat) may deter cats from messing with the tree and ornaments. 

Remember to NEVER place cookies or candy canes on or under the tree and know that homemade dough ornaments can be deadly!  Most recipes call for a large amount of salt which could prove fatal if ingested by your pet, not to mention the hook or string you may have attached it to the tree by.

Day Two: The Outdoors

If it is too cold for you, it’s too cold for your dog or cat. 

Never leave pets outdoors when the temperature drops. Dogs and all cats should only go out in cold weather for exercise and potty breaks. Short-coated dogs may require a sweater during walks to preserve body heat, and water-proof booties will not only keep paws dry and prevent heat loss, but they can prevent toxic chemicals found in de-icing salts from getting on your pet’s paws. 

Antifreeze is also poisonous, so wipe up spills and store all household chemicals out of paws reach.  For the sake of all critters trying to stay warm, bang on your car’s hood before starting the engine just in case cats or wildlife have crawled underneath.

Day Three: Company 

Make time for play BEFORE company arrives, then let pets retreat to a quiet back bedroom with safe toys to keep them out of mischief. 

Should you feel your pet can make an appearance, let him join in the fun, but remind children (ages 0-99+) never to bother dogs or cats when they are eating or sleeping, and stress the importance to visitors of closing guestroom doors and keeping suitcases zipped to avoid pets sniffing out medications, sugar-free gum (xylitol poisoning) or anything else they should not consume.

Resist serving hors d’oeuvres with toothpicks that could be dropped and consumed by your pet and ask company to kindly NOT feed Fluffy or Fido. Have “approved” pet treats available so that guests can “make friends” with something that will not upset your canine or feline tummies. 

Day Four: Food

Keep pets on their normal feeding schedule and diet to avoid stomach upsets or worse. Remember the following food tips this holiday season:

  • A taste of boiled or broiled white meat chicken or turkey should be fine, but stay away from dark meats, cooked fats and skins, gravies and anything slathered with oil, butter or salt. Pancreatitis can occur from greasy foods which means your pet will be spending the holidays in the ER!  
  • Cooked bones splinter and can puncture body parts from the inside out.
  • If you have a counter-surfing pooch who consumes unbaked bread, the yeast may continue to ferment in his tummy causing alcohol poisoning.
  • Grapes and raisins can result in kidney failure while chocolate and caffeine can increase heart rate and respiration and cause seizures and even death.
  • Nuts may trigger digestive distress, while only a few Macadamia nuts can result in paralysis.
  • Never let pets lick up spills or lick out of wine or cocktail glasses. A small amount of alcohol consumed by a small creature can result in serious symptoms from lack of coordination to death.

Great alternatives? Cooked carrot slices, broccoli, or string beans (without the salt and butter) can be a nice change and sweet potatoes (minus the marshmallows, butter, and brown sugar) offer vitamins, fiber, and yumminess!

Day Five: Plants

Although Poinsettias are the first plants to come to mind, they are not as dangerous as others. Their milky white, latex sap can be irritating to your pet’s tummy and mouth while Mistletoe could lower your dog or cat’s heart rate, causing blood pressure to drop. 

Holly Berries or leaves can bring on drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and decreased activity in pets. While Pinecones & needles can cause obstructions, intestinal perforations, and vomiting.

For cats in particular…beware of Lilies! As few as two leaves or petals of “true lilies” (Stargazer, Tiger, Casablanca, Asiatic and others) can cause kidney failure.

Day Six:  Routine

One of the best ways to maintain a healthy, well-behaved dog or cat during holiday chaos is by sticking to their normal routine.

  • Do not miss walks
  • Make sure meals are nutritious and on time
  • Do not forget vitamins
  • Wash bedding and scoop litter regularly 

Changes the holidays bring can create anxiety in your pet. Coupled with the intense energy you are giving off at this time of year, it is important that you stay on schedule and don’t forget to play — it does a body good (human, canine or feline). A tired pet is a good pet, and one who feels loved and special is a happier more well-adjusted one as well.

Day Seven: Pets as Gifts

Giving pets as gifts is a super bad idea! People and families should choose the pet that is right for them – one who fits into their lifestyle and at a time they are able to give that precious life a forever home.

Instead of giving a pet, ask your local rescue or shelter to make a gift certificate so that your friend or relative can select the right pet at the right time. Give them a book so that they can prepare to be an awesome pet parent, or treat them to a Dog or Cat First Aid Class so that they are prepared to handle whatever their new family member throws their way.

Day Eight: Water

Water does a body good — canine, feline or human, we all need a fresh supply daily. Water helps all the systems of the body function and remove toxins. Should you notice these signs in your pet, get to your veterinarian at once as these are common signs your pet is dehydrated:

  • Loss of elasticity in skin
  • Dry or sticky gums
  • Sunken eyes
  • Slow Capillary Refill Time
  • Lethargy
  • Too much or too little urination 

Day Nine: Gifts and Wrappings

As packages are placed under the tree, kindly ask anyone dropping one off if one is “edible” or something that might intrigue your pet if placed on the floor.

Anything with a scent (even undetectable by you) can tempt your dog or cat to participate in a little pre-Christmas unwrapping. Bird seed with a feeder, scented candles, pet treats, fruit cake and candies can set your fur child up for disaster if left within paws reach.

Even if the gift inside is uninteresting to your pet, notice if candy canes, evergreens & berries or any food item may be tied into the bow. Ribbons, yarn and tinsel can cause choking as well as intestinal blockages if consumed. Boxes and paper bags are generally safe play toys for your furry friends but be extra carefully in checking these items BEFORE you toss them out to be sure no one is hiding inside! 

And as far as gifts for Fido or Fluffy, purchase size-appropriate gifts and supervise, supervise, supervise.  Remove buttons or anything your pet might swallow before he gets to it, and do not give toys with squeakers if your dog is likely to rip it open in seconds!

Day Ten: Animal ER, Emergency Card, and Pet Alert Sticker 

Know where your nearest Animal Emergency Center is and what services they offer before you need to know. Have a Pet Emergency Card in your wallet next to your Driver’s License or ID so that should you be in an accident, First Responders will know you have animals at home that need tending to. Finally, a Pet Alert Sticker placed near your front door or window lets responders know pets are home in the event you cannot get back due to an emergency. Make sure you have a pet disaster preparedness plan as it just might save your pet’s life and your own as well! 

Day Eleven: Brush up on Pet First Aid Skills

As with anything in life, don’t wait until tragedy strikes before learning life-saving skills, and brush up on pet first aid techniques regularly because if you don’t use ‘em you’ll lose ‘em! Knowing how to bandage an ear, fix an upset tummy, manage a choking incident or actually perform rescue breathing or CPR on your dog or cat can make you their hero.

Day Twelve: Quality Time Spent with You

Show your furry family members how much you love them every day!

When you adopt you are making your furry friend a part of the family. When you return home be sure to make time for a walk and give your dog or cat your undivided attention. For all the smiles our pets give us, make sure you take time to show them how important they are to you. 

Here at PetFirst1, we know accidents and illnesses can happen to all pets – even during the holidays. PetFirst Pet Insurancecan help cover unexpected vet visits2 and can provide peace of mind. PetFirst Pet Insurance1 has cat and dog insurance policies2 to fit every budget. 

Consider getting pet insurance for your furry friend today.


Denise Fleck is the Pet Safety Crusader™ having personally taught more than 20,000 humans to rescue Rover or help Fluffy feel better.  Her mission is to help YOU make a difference in the life of an animal through Pet First-Aid, Senior Pet Care and Disaster Preparedness classes, her “The Pet Safety Bible,” and the dozen other books she has penned.  Learn more at www.PetSafetyCrusader.com

1PetFirst Healthcare, LLC (“PetFirst Pet Insurance” or “PetFirst”) is the program administrator authorized to offer and administer pet health insurance policies underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company, a Delaware insurance company, with its main office at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, or New Hampshire Insurance Company or The Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania, each with its main administrative office at 500 West Madison Street, Suite 3000 Chicago, IL 60661. For costs, complete details of coverage, and a listing of approved states, please contact PetFirst Healthcare, LLC.

2Like most insurance policies, insurance policies offered by PetFirst Healthcare, LLC contain certain exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force. 

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