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The holidays are a wonderful time to relax, enjoy and connect with family and friends – both the human and furry kind. With a bit of care, we can ensure that everyone stays safe, happy, healthy (and well fed!).

Pet Safety Over the Holidays

Christmas Trees

…Are a cat magnet! Cats love climbing and Christmas trees love tipping over. Keep everything on the up-and-up by placing Christmas trees in a sturdy base and, ideally, placing them in a corner and tethering them to the wall (some green twine about 2/3 of the way up the tree attached to a hook in the wall works well).


Pets love the sparkle of ornaments as much as we do, but they’re not always content to just look at them. Cats think they make great toys and will knock them down (potentially along with the entire tree – See Christmas Trees, above).

Glass ornaments will (always) fall on the hardest surface available, and can shatter into sharp pieces that can cut your pet’s feet. Dogs can chew glass ornaments, which can be very dangerous. The best bet is to securely fasten glass ornaments or, better yet, steer clear of them.

Plastic ornaments are safer, but still prime targets for chewing. Plastic pieces can cut a pet’s mouth, cause vomiting and/or diarrhea or, worse, become lodged in their intestine, requiring emergency surgery to remove. It’s always best to keep ornaments high out of reach to prevent pets from reaching them.


Dogs and especially cats can’t resist the siren song of hanging tinsel. They love to bat it and chew it, which often leads to them swallowing it.

The bad ol’ days of metal tinsel are thankfully behind us (metal tinsel can act like razor blades in a pet’s intestine – bad stuff. If you still have any, we recommend getting rid of it immediately) but plastic tinsel can still cause intestinal upset or even intestinal blockage requiring emergency surgery.

We simply recommend skipping the tinsel all together.

Ribbon and Gift Wrap

Ribbon is a close cousin of tinsel with similar dangers. Every holiday season, numerous pets (especially cats) become sick and have intestinal blockages from playing with ribbon.

Make sure any ribbon is out of reach of your pets – this includes presents under the tree. It’s best to simply skip the ribbon when wrapping. If you have gifts with ribbon, don’t leave them under the tree when you are not around.

Gift wrap, whereas usually not as dangerous as ribbon, is still fun for pets to chew, and can cause upset stomachs and vomiting (and occasionally worse). To keep the holidays (and your carpet) safe, it’s best to remove gift wrap immediately after unwrapping gifts.


Gently glowing lights are what make the holidays bright! Lights are wonderful, but be sure they are up high where they can’t be chewed.

We also recommend LED lights as they are cooler and don’t contain glass, avoiding burns and cuts should your pet “enjoy” them a little too much. It is also really important to unplug lights when you are not around.

Pets are especially attracted to dangling wires, making holiday lights a prime target. If your pet chews through a live (plugged in) cord, they can get a nasty shock, electrical burns or worse. Keep cords from dangling and run cords under carpets or tape them to the floor and walls to prevent any shocking situations.

Candles and Fires

Flames dance and flicker in hypnotic ways. Curious pets are drawn to them. Many people have seen cats come away from a close encounter with a candle with a few toasted whiskers, but the consequences can be much worse. Not only can pets get severe burns from open flames (not just candles, but fireplaces too), they can also knock over candles, which can lead to a house fire.

Be very careful with open flames – make sure they are well out of reach of pets and that they are extinguished once you leave the room.


The holidays and chocolate are like peas in a pod – always together. As much as we love chocolate, it is POISONOUS to pets. Unfortunately, pets don’t know this and chocolate tastes as good to them as it does to us.

Be vigilant with chocolate – keep it far away from pets. This includes bowls of chocolate treats on the living room table (e.g. chocolate covered peanuts), chocolate boxes, chocolate cookies, etc. Also remember any chocolate gifts – pets can smell it through the packaging and will happily unwrap a gift early to get the tasty treat inside.

If your pet eats chocolate, it’s best to contact us immediately. The toxicity of chocolate is related to its cocoa content – typically more expensive, higher quality chocolate is the most toxic (especially dark chocolate) versus the cheap “kids” chocolate that make up a lot of holiday treats.

Regardless of the kind of chocolate, if your pet has eaten chocolate, it needs veterinary care immediately. It may be surprising, but chocolate really is this dangerous to pets.

Turkey and Chicken Bones

Bird bones are hollow with thin walls – it keeps the bones strong yet light and is one of the adaptations that allows birds to fly. What does this have to do with your pet? A lot: Because bird bones are thin-walled, when they break (which happens when a pet chews them), the thin-walled edges at the break are razor sharp and can easily puncture a pet’s throat, stomach or intestines, which can cause them to become extremely sick very quickly, and can be deadly.

DON’T feed bird bones to pets! Please.

Other Holiday Food

There is so much good food over the holidays – it’s delicious … and your pets agree. Whereas it can be fun to share with your pet, it’s best to be cautious to ensure your pet stays healthy.

If you do share some of your food with your pet, we recommend that it only be a small amount relative to their overall daily diet (e.g. no more than 10% of a normal meal), and that it only be something that you would also eat (so no fat, gristle, bones, etc.).

Indulging your pet too much with rich food can cause them to become very sick (especially, they can get pancreatitis, a disease that can be very serious and sometimes difficult to control and cure).

As well, bones (even if not bird bones) can become stuck in your pet’s throat or intestines, both of which require emergency veterinary care and can be deadly – we recommend that you don’t give the dog a bone!

The Bottom Line

Enjoy the holidays! It’s a great time for you and your pets to get closer to one another. With a bit of planning, you can be sure your furry family member will be safe and happy throughout the wonderful holiday season.

Questions about the holidays? Worried your pet may have got into something? We’re here to help you and your pets. Please contact us to book an appointment.

Seasons greetings from all of us at Animal Care Clinic!