Keeping Pets Safe During Holiday Celebrations

Submitted By: Dr. Veja Tillman, DVM

The Holidays can be a joyous time for the family. But it can be an extremely dangerous time for your pets. Cats with their curious nature and dogs with their strong sense of smell, cause them both to get into holiday decorations, food, drinks, and other folly.  Nothing spoils holiday cheer like a trip to your local veterinary emergency clinic during a holiday party or in the middle of the night.   

Here are some holiday tips to help keep your pets safe and out of harms way during this holiday season.

  1. Keep “people or table” foods and sweets (especially those containing chocolate, xylitol, grapes/raisins, onions or other toxic foods) out of the reach of your pets and ask your guests to do the same. Emergency veterinary visits increase 20-30% due to gastrointestinal disorders during and after the holidays.
  2. Keep ALL cannabis (THC) products away from your pets.  While Marijuana use has been legalized for use in humans, this is not so for animals. Pets can be negatively affected by ingestion or exposure to cannabis of many forms. Signs from drooling, vomiting, and shaking to seizures, comma and death have been documented. Pets are also at risk of developing severe long-term disorder secondary to cannabis exposure including serious respiratory issues like bronchitis, pulmonary emphysema, and even lung cancer.
  3. Don’t leave your pet alone in an area with lit (open flame) candles, a decorated tree, or open decorations.
  4. Keep holiday plants (especially Holly, Poinsettia, Amaryllis, Mistletoe, pine needles and all Lilies) out of reach of pets by keeping the plants and any dropped or dried plant parts out of your pets’ reach.
  5. Place lights, tinsel, ribbons, plastic bags, wires, and batteries out of reach of your pets to avoid ingestion, choking and electrical shock and burn hazards from chewing on these items. Consider leaving the tinsel off your tree completely if you have a cat.
  6. Secure your Christmas tree to keep it from falling over just in case your dog bumps it or your cat decides to climb it. Hanging lemon-scented car air fresheners in the tree may deter your cat from climbing it.
  7. Plan a pet safe holiday gathering by setting house rules for your guest in case they would like to give your pets a little extra attention (table food, treats, etc) and exercise.
  8. Put all medications behind secured doors and ask your guests to keep their medications securely stored and packed away. This will help to decrease your pets access to medications.
  9. Provide a safe place for your pet(s) to escape the excitement and noise of holiday parties (such as a kennel, crate, perching place, scratching post shelf or hiding place in a quiet areas of the home) if you’re entertaining guests. If your pet is anxious, excitable, or scared, consider putting your pet in another room with their favorite toys and a comfortable bed to snuggle into. Consider speaking with your veterinarian to see if your pet may benefit from mild anxiety medications to help them cope with the activity of the holiday season.
  10. Keep your veterinarian’s phone number handy in case you have any questions about your pet(s) health during the holiday season or in the event of an emergency.


Dr. Tillman is a 2002 graduate of Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine. Her veterinary practice and work experience focuses on pet health and wellness. She is the owner of Just 4 Pets Wellness Center and can be reached at 239-270-5721.

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