According to AKC the upcoming holidays can pose
special health dangers for our four-legged friends.
Each year, thousands of pets become seriously
injured or ill during the holiday season, while
their owners are busy with shopping, baking and
entertaining. The AKC Pet Healthcare Plan, has paid
many claims related to the holidays. Some of these
have included a Bernese Mountain Dog that ate a tree
ornament and a German Shepherd Dog that chewed and
swallowed a battery-operated toy. Even more serious
claims paid include $1,768 for an Airedale Terrier,
who grabbed and swallowed a turkey skewer as it fell
from the kitchen counter and $3,738 for a Labrador
Retriever, who ate a kitchen towel and a potholder
during a holiday meal.
Pets can become very ill from a variety of common
holiday meal items, including table butter, meat and
candy. These foods can result in gastrointestinal
upsets and pancreatitis, a painful and sometimes
fatal condition. When these conditions occur, pets
might exhibit depression, vomiting, abdominal pain
or lack of appetite. Eating tinsel, ornaments and
garlands, even drinking the Christmas tree water,
can lead to serious stomach irritation. In addition,
poisoning from Xylitol (a sugar-free ingredient
found in baking goods, candy, and chewing gum) can
cause a severe blood sugar problem leading to
weakness, depression, and seizures.
Chocolate is another common cause of holiday
accidents for pets. Many types of concentrated
chocolate, particularly baking chocolate or dark
chocolate, can cause serious health problems
depending on the size of the dog.
During the holidays, prevention is really the key.
Place high risk items and holiday foods out of
reach. Dogs also like to chew on electrical cords,
gift ribbons and strings. Watch for symptoms of
restlessness, tremors, seizures, vomiting and
diarrhea and seek immediate veterinary treatment for
them. Of course, our pets' health and well being is
a responsibility that goes beyond just the holidays.
Don't let innocent holiday traditions jeopardize the
health of your pet. Evaluate the potential risks of
your holiday decorations, plants and meals (see
chart below). And, in the hustle and bustle of the
season, remember regular feeding and exercise
schedules and be certain to give your dog lots of
love as you start off the New Year.
Be Aware of These Holiday Dangers
and hot wax
chocolate and foil wrappers
Electrical cords (uncovered or untapped)
string and yarn
tinsel and confetti
and kitchen knives/blades
fireworks and other loud noises
fatty foods and table scraps
Poinsettias, holly, mistletoe and greens
tree stand water and chemicals
Intricate or fragile ornaments
salt and antifreeze
bones and meat drippings
hair (spun glass)
food stocks and seasonings
Artificial snow and snow flocking
toys, especially those with small parts
or unassembled parts
outdoor ice and snow
Fireplace flames and color salts
as the tree tips, take a few moments to go over some
safety precautions before putting up your tree.
1. Choose the Right Spot. Pick an area where the
tree can be enjoyed by the family but remains out of
heavy traffic. A lot of activity near the tree can
result in accidentally knocking it over. An area by
a wall or in a corner is ideal, especially one which
is out of the traffic flow pattern of the house. Try
to place the tree near an outlet so you don't have
to run electrical cords long distances.
2. Prepare the Area. If you have a live tree, you
might need to use some extra precautions. Lay down
plastic sheeting or buy a "tree bag" before setting
it up. This is an extra large trash bag used for
live trees. Center the tree on the bag. When the
season is over and you have removed the tree
ornaments, pull the bag over the tree. This will
catch the pine needles as they fall from the tree -
and prevent them from being chewed or swallowed by
3. Secure the Tree. Many trees have been sent
swaying by a rambunctious dog or puppy . Dogs can
knock over a tree by rubbing against or playing
under it. Pets can be injured if the trees or
ornaments fall and break. You can place the tree in
a corner and secure it from two sides to small hooks
in the walls. Another trick is to place a small hook
in the ceiling above the tree and use clear fishing
line from the top of the tree to the hook. Apply
gentle tension and tie. The clear line is invisible.
While you're at it, make sure that the base of the
tree is firmly secured and does not wobble.
4. Hide the Cords. Electrical cords are a grave
danger to pets - especially puppies and dogs that
tend to chew on anything. Cords can cause
electrocution and serious injury or even death.
Secure the cords by positioning them higher than the
pet can reach or hiding them with special covers.
5. No Hooks. Check your ornaments and replace hooks
with a loop of string tied in a knot. Ornaments
often fall from the tree and pets may catch their
mouths on or swallow the hooks.
6. Choose Safe Ornaments . There is no perfectly
pet-safe bulb, as any ornament can be ingested and
cause an intestinal obstruction. Pet "safer" bulbs
would be plastic or wood. Glass bulbs on the lower
limbs can be especially dangerous. If broken, pets
can step on them and cut their feet. Worse yet, they
can even treat the bulbs like a ball and chew on
them, causing them to break and result in mouth or
throat trauma and bleeding. Many pet owners have
learned the hard way not to place any ornaments on
the lower limbs. Ornaments made of food may be
especially attractive to pets, so beware of popcorn
garlands and similar treats.
7. Ribbons. Big red velvet ribbons are a lovely
addition to a holiday home. They're also a safer
replacement for the tinsel and garland that can be
eaten by dogs and get caught in their intestine.
Cats are especially attracted to the bright shiny
tinsel, so it should really be avoided in households
with cats. Ingestion of this material can cause
intestinal obstruction that may require surgery.
8. Presents. Dogs love to investigate and most don't
understand that the presents are not meant to be
opened ahead of time. Gifts can be destroyed by a
playful pet, and the decorative wrappings swallowed.
Consider storing the presents in a safe area until
right before the holiday or make sure your pet is
always supervised while investigating and searching
for his special gift.
9. Sweep and Water. Sweep up the pine needles.
Ingestion of needles can cause vomiting and gastric
irritation. Keep the tree watered and only turn the
lights on when you are at home. There is always a
risk of fire with a live tree, so take extra
precautions. Do not allow your pet access to the
tree water, as drinking it can make them ill.
10. Supervise. The safest thing to do is to allow
your pet access to the tree only when supervised.
Pets that continue to bother the tree should be
rewarded for playing away from the tree. (Now is a
perfect time to offer them a great new toy to keep
them occupied and out of trouble.) Bitter apple can
be sprayed on low branches for persistent chewers.
I hope these give you some great tips. Many people
love to decorate their trees and remember how and
where they got their ornaments. I cherish certain
ornaments like the paw print ornament.