Keeping your pet safe during the holiday season

Now we are on the countdown to Christmas, many of us will be putting up the tree and decorations over the coming weeks. Your pets may find this time of year very exciting and even come up with some novel games like “Climb the weird indoor tree” and “eat the Christmas decorations as fast as you can”. I’m sure you will agree that you would prefer to spend the holiday season celebrating with your family, rather than visiting the vet; so here are our tips for having pet safe celebrations.

Dangerous Foods

Be very careful what you feed your pets because lots of festive treats can be harmful to our pets.  It may be tempting to give your pet lots of treats over the holiday period, but any sudden change of diet may lead to digestive upsets and very poorly pets. Be on the look out for well-meaning visitors giving extra tit-bits to your pets and remember that over indulgence can lead to an unhealthy weight gain. Make sure any festive treats and snacks for the family are kept well out of your pet’s reach.

Some examples of potentially harmful foods are

  • Chocolate
  • Nuts
  • Sweets
  • Raisins and grapes
  • Fruit cakes, mince pies, Christmas pudding
  • Onions
  • Alcohol
  • Meat Bones

Some Christmas foods and drinks are highly toxic to pets


Shiny ornaments and decorations can be very attractive to curious pets who could suffer serious injuries from chewing and ingesting them.  Any decorations should be kept out of reach of curious pets when possible.

  • Tinsel can be very attractive to cats and dogs but if it is eaten, it can cause blockages which often require surgery to remove.
  • Ribbons and string can cause intestinal obstructions if swallowed and are a choking hazard to pets if they get caught around the neck.
  • Pot-pourri contains oils that can be toxic to pets if eaten.
  • Ensure that the base of your Christmas tree is as sturdy as possible and discourage your pets from climbing it.
  • Tree needles can be toxic and cause mouth and stomach irritation. Even needles and the wire of artificial trees could pose a problem.
  • Chewing on electrical cords of lights can cause problems ranging from burned mouths, to electrical shock and death.
  • A lot of Christmas plants are toxic to pets including Mistletoe, Holly and Poinsettia, which can all can cause vomiting and diarrhoea. Ivy leaves and berries are particularly hazardous to rabbits.
  • If you have a real tree make sure your pet cannot drink the water in the bucket/stand. Many people use preservatives to keep their tree alive that are highly toxic to pets.
  • Never leave lighted candles unattended or within reach of your pet. If knocked over they can cause burns or lead to a fire.
  • Make sure your pet is always supervised when in a room with festive decorations

Always supervise pets around Christmas decorations

Gifts Under The Tree

Gifts under a tree can prove very attractive to pets for chewing or playing with so make sure that your pet is supervised at all times

  • Avoid putting any food gifts out until right before your family will be opening them, as these will be very appealing to your pet.
  • Perfumes and after-shaves usually contain ethanol and essential oils which can be very toxic.
  • Batteries for toys or other gifts can be toxic and cause intestinal obstruction, so keep them in a safe place until they are ready to be inserted into the gift.
  • Rawhide or other edible items for pets left under the tree can be very tempting.
  • Companies often package rawhide and other pet gifts wrapped in ribbon, so make sure to remove this packaging before you present gifts to your pets.



Most pets are creatures of habit so try to keep your pets routine the same as normal if possible. With lots of excitement and visitors it is often easy to forget to walk the dog or let the cat outside. A dog that is tired after a good run will be happier to sit or lie quietly and get into less trouble than a bored one. Try to keep your pets feeding times the same and don’t be tempted to add too many rich festive extras to the bowl, as this may cause a tummy upset and could result in a trip to the vet.

walkies copy

Fancy Dress

Christmas jumpers and Santa hats are popular with many of us at this time of year and because we consider our pets to be important members of the family, this trend is sometimes extended to them as well. With plenty of cute festive outfits being widely available from pet stores it can be fun to dress up your pet if he or she will tolerate it, but please remember that when wearing a pet coat, jumper or festive outfit that your pet could easily overheat in the extra layers; these extra items should be removed after a few minutes, especially if you are indoors.

  • Any dress up outfits should still allow your pet to move around freely and be able to eat, drink and go to the toilet.
  • Ensure your pet is not uncomfortable whilst being dressed up; if he or she just sits in one place and refuses to move, walks around hunched up or is pawing at the offending article, please remove it.
  • Watch for signs of overheating
  • Ensure your pet’s outfit doesn’t get tangled or caught on anything

Christmas fancy dress cat


Sometimes lots of visiting people can be very stressful for our pets.

  • Make sure your pet has somewhere to retreat to if it all gets a bit too much.  Provide a quiet room away from the commotion with water and food available.
  • Provide your cat with a litter tray if he or she is nervous of visitors, so that he or she does not have to worry about asking to be let out.
  • Don’t force your pets to be sociable and petted by visitors if they seem uncomfortable.
  • Brushing up on obedience training before the holidays may help a dog who has become a little rusty.
  • Be sure to inform your visitors of any household ‘rules’ or problem behaviours concerning your pets, for example, jumping up on the sofa, sneaking out the door or stealing food from the table.
  • If your pet gets distressed when you have visitors you can use Feliway (for cats) or Adaptil (for dogs), these give off pheromones which help calm cats and dogs during stressful periods. Speak with your veterinary nurse for more information.
  • For dogs who may not behave or could be aggressive, placing them in a separate room, using pet gates, or sending them to stay at a friend’s house during a party, may be necessary and sometimes, boarding a dog in a kennel may be the safest alternative.



If you are travelling around to visit relatives and friends, make sure that suitable provisions have been made for your pets.

  • A bed or a travel crate is a good idea so that your pet has their own area to rest in.
  • Remember to take your pet’s food and bowls.
  • Find the number of a vet local to the place you are visiting and take a copy of your pet insurance policy, in case of illness or accidents.
  • Make sure your pet is micro-chipped and is wearing a collar with a suitable id tag, just in case he or she runs off.
  • If your pet gets distressed about travelling and visiting strange places you can use Feliway (for cats) or Adaptil (for dogs), these give off pheromones which help calm cats and dogs during stressful periods.
  • Remember to allow your pet time alone and a place to retreat to. This is especially important with dogs if there is another dog in the house that you are visiting (or if other dogs are visiting you).

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