If you already have a dog – or three or four! – in the house, you’ve probably dog-proofed your home to some degree. Maybe you moved some fragile antiques to the attic, or put up baby gates to keep curious paws out. During the holiday season, though, your home could contain an array of new pet hazards that you may not have realized. We’ve put together some tips to help make your celebrations safe for everyone, including the canine members of your family.
You’re likely already familiar with which human foods your dog can and can’t eat, but the holidays are a great time for a refresher, especially since feasts and potlucks may bring different types of food into the house. For example, you might remember that that your dog should never be given poultry bones, but you may not think of another meat-related hazard for dogs: the string used to tie roasts. Many dogs love to chew these – and who can blame them? – but they can wrap around your dog’s intestines, requiring emergency surgery. Other foods your dog should avoid include raw meat, uncooked bread dough, onions, garlic, macadamia nuts, grapes or raisins, or chocolate (especially dark or baking chocolate), and anything containing alcohol, tobacco, or certain artificial sweeteners. All of these can cause digestive upset or vomiting, and some can even cause serious reactions such as seizures and kidney failure. As always, keep your garbage out of your dog’s reach, since many dogs cannot resist food wrappers and packaging—even if the actual food is long gone.
A special note about Christmas trees
Sadly, there’s pretty much nothing dog-friendly about a Christmas tree, but you can take steps to make it as safe as possible for your dog. If you are putting up a tree in an area your dog can access, the number one thing to avoid is tinsel. Ingested tinsel can become a “linear foreign body,” which is a life-threatening veterinary emergency! You should also avoid putting anything edible on the tree, such as candy canes or strings of popcorn or cranberries. Those items are just too tempting for your furry friend. Dogs may be especially attracted to round, ball-like ornaments, which can break and pose a choking hazard if they are made out of glass. Plug strings of lights into grounded outlets, and unplug them when you leave home. It’s a good idea to monitor lights for signs of fraying or chewing, which can put your dog at risk of electrocution. Even an undecorated Christmas tree can pose problems, since tree oils can irritate your dog’s mouth and stomach, and swallowed pine needles can puncture the intestines. Sweep or vacuum frequently to remove fallen needles. You may also want to consider a tree skirt, which will keep your dog from drinking the water. The water used in live Christmas trees can contain traces of any fertilizers or pesticides used on the tree, as well as bacteria that develops in standing water. The wires in artificial trees can also be dangerous to dogs who love to chew.
Like cats, many dogs are interested in wrapping paper and ribbons, which can cause problems if ingested. Resist the urge to decorate your dog with festive ribbons, and be especially careful about batteries and small plastic toys such as bouncy balls, action figures, Legos, and board game pieces that could end up in your dog’s mouth. And don’t forget that food covered in pretty gift wrap is still food, and your dog can still smell it! In fact, shredding the paper just adds to the fun for a dog, so don’t leave edible gifts under the tree.
Candles and fires
In the hustle and bustle of holiday entertaining it can be easy to forget how easily your pet (or a visiting toddler!) could knock over a candle or venture too close to a crackling fire. As always, make sure these items are safely out of reach, or consider flameless versions instead.
We hope these tips help ensure that everyone in your family has a safe, happy holiday season. After all, a stressful and expensive trip to the emergency vet is not on anyone’s holiday wish list!