Wintertime can mean excitement, with the world blanketed in frosty hues and festive decorations. It’s a time of gathering, celebration, and often a season of joy, but it is also a time of year that can introduce potential hazards for pets.
Pet parents need to be mindful of their furry friends and understand some of the dangers of the winter holiday hazards for pets. This comprehensive guide offers some winter holiday pet safety tips from food dangers to seasonal plants, decorations, and even recommendations for traveling with your pet during the holidays.
Plan in advance
Before we dive into the specifics of pet holiday safety, let’s emphasize the importance of planning ahead. The holiday season can be chaotic, and amidst the hustle and bustle, it's easy to overlook potential hazards for your pet.
You may have seen our other article about which foods to avoid sharing with your pet during Thanksgiving, but as we move into the winter season, there are additional things you can do to keep your pet safe, happy, and healthy.
Designate safe spaces for them, consider their comfort during gatherings, and plan for any travel well in advance. Understand which ornaments and decoratives can be hazardous, and seek pet-safe alternatives, or plan to keep them out of your furry friend's reach.
Be aware of the closest 24/7 emergency veterinary clinic, and have your vet’s phone number ready. You can also consider adding the Pet Poison Helpline: 855-764-7661 or the ASPCA Poison Control Center: 888-426-4435 to your contact list, just in case.
Winter Holiday Food Hazards
With the abundance of delicious food prepared during the holiday season, it’s easy to give in to the urge to share some with your beloved furry friend, but there are a few items to be aware of that can pose a hazard to your pet’s health.
Avoid giving pets anything containing xylitol, a sugar substitute in many sugar-free products. Xylitol can be extremely toxic to dogs, leading to rapid insulin release and resulting in hypoglycemia.
Leftovers and Bones
Resist the urge to share leftover holiday meals with your pets, especially bones. Poultry bones can splinter and cause serious internal damage, while rich and fatty foods can lead to pancreatitis, according to MedVet.
Common Festive Treats
Keep an eye on your pet around common festive treats like chocolate, nuts, and alcohol, as they can be harmful or even fatal. Chocolate contains theobromine, which is known to be toxic to both dogs and cats.
Winter Holiday Food for Pets
Instead of sharing human food, consider preparing special holiday treats for your pets. A mix of lean meats and pet-friendly veggies can be a delightful and safe way to include your pets in the holiday feasting.
Healthy Winter Holiday Recipe for Cats
Treat your cat friend to a special holiday meal by mixing cooked chicken, turkey, or tuna with small amounts of catnip. Form the mixture into bite-sized balls for a festive and feline-friendly treat. Check out a recipe from Zoetis.
Healthy Winter Holiday Recipe for Dogs
Create a holiday doggy stew for your canine companions by combining lean meat, sweet potatoes, and green beans. Ensure the ingredients are pet-friendly, and avoid adding any seasonings or spices. Check out a recipe from Pebbles and Toast.
Seasonal Plants and Decorations
Decorating is all fun and games until your cat knocks over the tree or your dog snatches an ornament off it, thinking it’s a cool, new toy. Below are some tips to help you avoid the mayhem of pets and holiday decor.
Ornaments can be enticing for a curious Christmas cat but can also be hazardous. Place fragile or small ornaments higher on the tree to prevent pets from knocking them off and potentially ingesting them.
Secure loose wires or lights – pets are curious creatures and could get tangled in them or chew on them. Consider pet-friendly alternatives like battery-operated lights to eliminate the risk of electrical shock.
Anchor your Christmas tree securely to prevent it from falling over if an inquisitive pet decides to investigate. Vacuum regularly around the tree to remove fallen needles, which can be harmful if ingested.
Mistletoe & Holly
While these quintessential plants add a touch of holiday charm, consider that these plants are highly toxic to pets, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Opt for artificial alternatives or place them out of reach to avoid accidental ingestion.
Common holiday plants, such as poinsettias, can harm pets if ingested. Keep these plants in areas that aren’t accessible to your furry friends. Christmas Cactuses are among some holiday plants safe for cats to come in contact with.
Hosting Parties and Visitors
It’s the time of year when family and friends gather to celebrate and be merry. This can mean some extra intrigue and even some overwhelm for your pet, so it’s important to understand how to make your furry friend feel comfortable and stay safe.
Candles and Scents
Be cautious with scented candles and air fresheners, as some pets may be sensitive to strong fragrances. Keep candles out of reach, and opt for pet-friendly scents.
Gifts and Packaging
Gifts wrapped in shiny paper and adorned with ribbons may attract your pet’s attention. Ensure that these items are kept away, as ingesting ribbons or plastic can lead to intestinal obstructions.
Safe Space For Pets
During gatherings, create a quiet and safe space where your pet can retreat if they feel overwhelmed. To make them feel secure, provide them with familiar items, like their bed or toys.
Safety Outside the Home
Knowing how to protect your pet from holiday hazards inside your home is important, as is understanding how to keep your pet safe while outside this winter season.
Winter Chemical Hazards for Pets
Antifreeze, commonly used in winter, is highly toxic to pets. Keep it out of reach and clean up any spills right away. Consider using pet-safe alternatives too.
New Year's Noise and Fireworks
The loud noises associated with New Year’s celebrations can be distressing for pets. Create a quiet and secure space for them to retreat to, and consider using calming products like pheromone diffusers, calming collars, or chews.
Travel can be stressful, especially during the holiday season, with crowded airports and higher traffic volumes on the roads. If you plan to travel this winter and bring your beloved furry friend, ensuring your pet is safe is imperative.
Identification Tags And Microchips
Before traveling, ensure that your pet’s identification tags are current. Consider microchipping, a permanent form of identification providing a higher chance of reunion if your pet gets lost.
Pets in Vehicles
If you’re traveling by car, secure your pet in a well-ventilated crate or use a pet seat belt. Avoid leaving them unattended in a vehicle, especially in extreme weather conditions.
Traveling by Air
When flying with pets, check the airline’s policy regarding pet travel. Ensure your pet is comfortable in an airline-approved carrier and has all the necessary documentation.
Keeping Your Pet Safe This Winter Holiday Season
The winter holidays are a time for joy and celebration, and by taking a few precautions, you can be sure to have happy holidays that aren’t stressful for your cats and dogs. From pet-friendly recipes to securing decorations, these holiday safety tips for pets will help create a safe and festive environment for your furry companions.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to prepare a dog for fireworks?
Create a quiet, secure space for your dog to hide during fireworks. If they’re not handling the fear well, consider using a calming product like calming collars, chews, or pheromone diffusers.
How to cat-proof a Christmas tree?
Consider using pet-friendly options when decorating, like unbreakable ornaments. Alternatively (depending on where your cat likes to explore the tree), place fragile ornaments higher on the tree, out of reach, or on lower branches so that if they fall, they’re less likely to be smashed. Anchor your tree securely to prevent it from toppling.
Do dogs need boots for cold weather?
In extreme cold or snowy conditions, boots can help protect your dog’s paws from ice, salt, and other irritants. Not all dogs tolerate them well, so introduce them slowly and monitor your dog’s comfort levels.
How to keep dogs and cats safe when de-icing?
Choose pet-safe de-icing products and thoroughly wipe your pet’s paws after walks to prevent them from consuming harmful chemicals.
What to do if a cat swallowed tinsel?
Immediate medical attention is crucial. Contact your veterinarian right away, as ingesting tinsel can lead to serious health issues.