Holiday Safety Tips for Dogs

Dog laying on ground and tangled in holiday string lights

It's time to deck the halls with boughs of holly and make merry with friends and family — including your dog. And while the holidays are certainly the most wonderful time of the year, that merriment can quickly fade to disaster if you don't take the time to make your holiday home safe for your furry friend. Our holiday safety tips for dogs can help.

We’re sure that your dog wants to get in on all the holiday fun that lies ahead, but it’s important to keep him safe in the process. With so many decorations and new foods floating around, keeping him out of harm's way can prove challenging — but not impossible. Below are some hazards to be aware of that can make the holidays less than fun for him.

Oh, Christmas Tree!

Dogs love trees, so seeing you bring one inside the house is likely to make his tail wag just a little. And while your dog may see the tree as nothing more than a nifty new spot to lift a leg, some elements of your tree may prove perilous for him. Here are some tips to consider:

  • Use lights your dog can't chew. The wires of shiny Christmas lights entice your dog, especially a younger dog, to chew them or even become entangled in them, posing a tipping hazard for the tree. Combat this by using cable ties to keep the lights close to the branches and boughs. Unplug your lights when you leave the home if the dog has access to the tree, and if possible, use battery-operated tree lights with a battery pack tucked somewhere in the tree that the dog can't reach.
  • Decorate with safe decorations. Forgo the angel hair and tinsel, as dogs can consume these enticing decorative items and end up with a dangerous intestinal blockage. Use only shatterproof ornaments that are rated nontoxic. If you must hang more expensive ornaments, then place them near the top of the tree where your dog can't reach them.
  • Avoid candy as decor. Don't decorate with food items like candy canes and chocolate candy, since they're highly toxic and can make your dog really sick or worse.
  • Prevent tipping. Reduce the chance of your pet being hurt or your tree being damaged by securing it from tipping over. Weights attached to the base or a weighted base are two solutions. You might also anchor the tree to the wall or ceiling for added caution.
  • Leave presents in the closet. A tree surrounded by beautifully wrapped gifts is a sight to behold, but your pet will see it as an invitation to dive in and have some fun. Avoid any potential bouts of mischief by keeping presents in the closet or elsewhere until Christmas morning.

Choosing a Nonpoisonous Tree

It's important to remember when buying a real Christmas tree that some fir trees make oils that your dog can ingest and become sick with vomiting and excessive drooling. Avoid fir trees when possible. The needles of a real Christmas tree, if your dog ingests them, can also be a problem, since they are very sharp and can cause internal damage to your dog's body if he eats them — which is rare, but it happens. Select a Christmas tree that is classified as "non-drop," meaning its needles don't drop off, so they can't get stuck in your pooch's paws and cause him a lot of pain. If possible, keep the tree in a room where the dog is not free to roam, which can be accomplished by installing doggy or baby gates on the room's entrances.

Holiday Food: Safe for Dogs?

It's hard to avoid giving in to those big brown eyes pleading for treats from the master's table. However, yielding to your dog's wishes this holiday can be detrimental to his health, so stick to his favourite Purina fare instead. So many holiday foods are on the doggy no-no list, from grapes to chocolates to ingredients in mince pies and puddings. Even meats such as turkey can be dangerous as they may contain small bones that your dog swallows — and ends up with internal cuts. The following foods can be dangerous for your pets:

  • Raisins
  • Grapes
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Some types of wild mushrooms
  • Rhubarb (primarily the leaves)
  • Potato leaves and stems
  • Tomato leaves and stems
  • Apple seeds
  • Cherry pits
  • Apricot pits
  • Peach pits
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Walnuts
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Alcohol
  • Xylitol – sometimes in peanut butter or chewing gum
  • Bread dough

Beware the Seasonal Flowers

A home filled with beautiful flowers is a holiday tradition that many households look forward to each year. However, many of these flowers and plants prove toxic to dogs. Mistletoe berries and holly, if ingested, can make your dog's stomach sick. Munching on poinsettias can result in mouth and stomach irritation. Ivy, typically found in wreaths, can result in skin irritation and sickness for your pet.

Skip the Fireworks

Fireworks are a big hit in the background of holiday shindigs, especially when New Year's Eve rolls around. But your pet can become very frightened by the loud sounds and smoke they emit. Find your dog a nice safe place to be during any fireworks show, or forgo the fireworks show altogether.

Yes, when it comes to the holidays, it's all fun and games until someone hurts a paw. Heed the holiday safety tips for dogs above to keep your canine companion happy and safe all season long.

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