It’s almost the holiday season, and homes around the world are getting ready to host parties and celebrations of many different winter holidays. In addition to the food, guest list and party schedule, pet owners should also be wary of one additional thing: potential hazards for their pets.
Not all decorations and foods that are common around the holidays are pet-friendly. Be aware of these holiday hazards to keep your entire family—including your cats and dogs—safe and healthy well into the new year.
Decorating your home is part of the fun of celebrating the holidays, but with pets around, some of your most-loved decorations could become health hazards.
- Tinsel: Shiny, thin and looking a lot like a toy, tinsel can be a magnet for cats this holiday season. It bounces and sways, meaning your cat will probably have its eyes locked on it and may even try to eat it. Once in your cat’s stomach, tinsel can ball up or wrap around the intestines, causing major intestinal problems like blockages that will need emergency vet attention.
- String lights: It wouldn’t be the holidays without strings of festive-colored lights draped inside and outside your home. But electrical wiring and lights hung in places where pets can reach them is a huge no-no. Exposed wiring can be extremely tempting for curious cats and dogs, and if they gnaw on them, they might experience a serious electric shock. Lights can also get easily tangled and may choke or injure your pet by entrapping them.
- Pine needles: If you love to cut down and decorate your own real Christmas tree, be wary about pine needles. Ingesting pine needles won’t usually cause serious problems, but it can make your pet’s stomach quite upset. And, if your tree was coated in a chemical or pesticide before you brought it home, the needles might make your pet even sicker.
- Ornament hooks: When hanging ornaments on your tree or in other areas of your home, make sure to clean up any and all metal hooks that accompany them. These tiny pieces of metal are easy for pets to chew on and swallow, but their sharp, pointy edges can cut the inside of your pet’s mouth and esophagus and may even cause damage within the stomach and intestines. After the ornaments are hung, make sure your pets don’t knock any off and play with the hook.
- Candles: Many people like to decorate their homes with exposed candles. However, leaving open flames on counters or tables is potentially dangerous with animals around. Cats and dogs might get curious and investigate, or they might be careless and accidently knock them over, hurting themselves or causing a fire within your home.
- Mistletoe: Hanging a sprig of mistletoe above the doorway or chandelier is a Christmas tradition in many households, but make sure your adorable decoration doesn’t fall to the floor or is accessible by pets. Mistletoe is actually one of the most dangerous plants for dogs and cats to ingest, potentially causing gastrointestinal issues, difficulty breathing and sometimes even heart failure.
The holidays wouldn’t be the holidays without yummy treats to munch on, but make sure you’re keeping these toxic foods away from your pets!
- Candy canes: Candy canes are must-have stocking stuffers that come in a seemingly endless variety of flavors. If you’re giving candy canes as gifts or hanging them as decorations, be sure to keep them out of your pet’s reach. The candies are made almost exclusively of sugar, which can cause an upset stomach in pets. Additionally, candy canes tend to splinter when they’re chewed on, potentially becoming a choking hazard.
- Fatty meats: Fatty sections of turkey and ham or meat skins can be dangerous for your pet. Not only are they not good for your pet’s digestive health, but they can also cause a dangerous condition called pancreatitis.
- Alcohol: When the holidays are near, wine, beer and spirits may be present at your parties. And while alcohol can be fun to consume in moderation for adults, it should never be given to pets under any circumstance. Additionally, be wary of foods and desserts that that contain alcohol, as these can be dangerous, as well.
- Chocolate: As most people know, chocolate is extremely toxic to dogs and cats. During the holiday season, chocolate treats wrapped in shiny foil and set out in bowls during parties are easy targets for pets to sneak into.
- Gumdrops: Sticky candies like gumdrops present a choking hazard to pets, and the high amount of sugar can make them feel extremely ill. Additionally, more and more gummy candies are introducing a sugar-free substitute called xylitol, which can be deadly when ingested by your pet. Xylitol can cause vomiting, seizures and many more health problems for your pet with a sweet tooth.
Even though these decorations and foods are hazardous to your pets, it doesn’t mean you have to give up on some of your holiday favorites entirely. Just be sure to remain on alert and put decorations and treats in areas your pets can’t reach them while celebrating this year.