Tips to Enjoy a Safe and Healthy Christmas with your Pets

Pet safety at Christmas

Christmas is undoubtedly one of the most festive times of year, with holly and jolly permeating the atmosphere throughout the season. Streets, houses and backyards are decked with vibrant splashes of green, red and white. The bustling Christmas markets are a sea of bobble hats, mulled wine, merriment and cascading lights. However, not everyone wishes to endure the chilly conditions outside and may prefer to enjoy spending time with their loved ones and pets at home. There are a few things we would like to bring to light for everyone to enjoy a happy, healthy and safe Christmas with your pets. 

Pets and Christmas gatherings

It is the season of socialisation. There are formal and informal gatherings which are held by families, friends, workplace etc. Drinking and eating are the main highlights of such events. Dishes like roast poultry, wine, eggnog, cakes are devoured to hearts content. Loud music, singing carols, dancing and Christmas movie marathons are essentials no doubt. Gift giving and receiving are very common too. We as pet parents always try to sneak in ways to include our pets in the merry celebrations. It is important to remember that it is a stressful time for our pets. 

They do not understand the concept of celebrations and they get very anxious as strangers enter their territory and sometimes they bring their pets along too. The anxiety level rises and your pet may feel bullied and threatened by the other guest pet. Or if you are invited to attend a Christmas party, sometimes leaving your pet behind is the best option to protect your pet’s mental health. There could also be the possibility of guests feeding food toxic to your pet or an overdose of the daily treat requirement. 

Though you may have most situations in control, it is not always possible. This season, children are gifted pets which is a meaningful gesture but a huge responsibility for the whole family since it is not a joke but a long time commitment which involves the life of a precious little fur baby. 


Holiday food dangers

Tis the season to be jolly! Food is a form of shared happiness for many. Each bite of Christmas food holds on to many fond memories we have shared with loved ones the past few years. Our pets may put their little snouts on our laps as we wine and dine at the table but resisting the urge to feed them table scraps is crucial. Here is a list of toxic holiday food for pets:

Toxic holiday food:

  • Poultry skin
  • Cooked bones
  • Gravy
  • Chocolate
  • Fruit cakes
  • Gingerbread cookies
  • Nuts
  • Cranberry sauce
  • Alcohol, spirits, wine
  • Onion, garlic, leeks, shallots
  • Desserts

However with changing times, there are plenty of pet friendly holiday themed food for your pets which are available in pet stores such as dog friendly pizza, beer, wine. This can be enjoyed by your pet. If you still feel like feeding out of your kitchen, there are certain seasonal foods your pet may enjoy such as – cranberries, Brussels sprouts, peas, green beans, cranberries, eggs, potatoes, turkey meat etc.   

There are always some DIY Christmas treats you can try baking at home and have the satisfaction of giving homemade treats as you prepare for the Christmas party. 

Christmas decoration and hazards 

The bushy green pine tree decorated with beautiful ornaments and twirled with lights is usually the eye catcher of the house. It is a magical experience to be in the moment at Christmas. Christmas socks  are hung up above the chimneys and freshly baked cookies and a glass of milk are placed on a table for Santa Clause to gobble them up. This very setting of Christmas is a wonderful place to be. Pet proofing your house can help you and your pet have a peaceful, joyful Christmas. 

Here are some tips to pet proof your house –

  • Always supervise your pet – Keep decorations out of reach – Make sure the Christmas tree is sturdy and has no chance of toppling over. Cats are tree climbers and may get tempted to scratch on the bark. Your pup’s tail may also bang the tree as they wag their tail in excitement. Glass ornaments may shatter and break causing a scary mess for our little paws. Chewing and choking hazards are always a possible accident too! Your inquisitive pet may also try to taste the edible chocolate decorations which are poisonous.
  • Be careful of fire and electrical equipment – If you have a beautiful fireplace, ensure you have fireguards put up to prevent embers from spitting out of fire and falling on your pet. Electrical equipment and lights must be coiled and placed out of reach of pets. Keep candles away from curtains too.
  • Don’t keep presents under trees – As a tradition, Christmas presents are placed below the Christmas tree but if you have a pet at home you need to be careful. Certain breeds love tearing up presents especially if they are a little kitten or puppy since everything is new to them and they have not been trained still. They will not understand the concept of boundaries.


    Staycations and petcations

    As we are at the end of the year, we love to spend time as a family and head on to a staycation. A staycation is a way to unwind and relax. We are in a difficult situation, as those puppy eyes just melt our hearts. There is no need for them to be left out in the family time. Here are some tips if you are planning a pet friendly vacation:

      • Choose a suitable location – A warm and welcoming accommodation is always a boon for pet parents as it takes an unnecessary burden off a pet parent’s shoulders. Choose the accommodation carefully.
      • Pack all your pet’s essentials – Food bowls, medications, dog food, treats, harness, leash and bedding are basic necessities for your pet. You could also pack some toys and anything your pet loves. 
      • Make your pet comfortable with travel – Taking frequent and short breaks in between long car travel, so you and your pet have the opportunity to stretch your paws and legs. 
      • Ensure all vaccinations are up to date – Vaccinations are important to keep your precious pet safe from any unwanted or unexpected illness.   
      • Have an emergency first aid kit – Your veterinary doctor can help guide you on what is essential in the kit customised to your pet’s age, medical conditions, past history and basic requirements. 

    Holiday plants and pet safety

    The beautiful ornamental and colourful plants are a wonderful way to decorate your interiors, spaces and gardens. Here are some toxic plants you need to avoid-

    • Poinsettia – Known by different names such as Christmas star, lobster plant etc. this plant is available in varied colours. They are mildly toxic to pets. They can cause drooling, eye and skin irritation, diarrhoea and vomiting. 

    • Mistletoe – Viscumin, a type of lectin present in Mistletoe can enter the bloodstream and can cause symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea, seizures, tremors, low blood pressure and slow heart rate. 

    • Ivy – Saponins and polyacetylene present in Ivy can cause symptoms such as abdominal pain, drooling, vomiting, diarrhoea, pawing at mouth, skin irritation and breathing difficulty. 

    • Holly – Saponins, methylxanthines, cyanogenic glycosides present in Holly can cause gastrointestinal upset, tremors, seizures, respiratory failure and worst case scenario death. 

    • Christmas rose – The roots, flowers and leaves contain toxins which are toxic to pets. Symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy, abdominal pain, increased thirst are noticeable.

    The intensity of poisoning will depend on the quantity ingested and personal factors influenced by the pet. If you notice any of the symptoms mentioned above, please take your pet to the Veterinarian immediately. 

    Being a little careful and proactive can help have a happy and safe Holiday season with your pets and family. 

    Here are some conventional ways to celebrate a safe Christmas with your pets:

    • Let them help decorate the Christmas tree and play with pet friendly Christmas ornaments.
    • Bake some DIY Christmas treats with pets.
    • Spend some quality time with them by going on a walk.
    • Take them to a pet cafe and enjoy Christmas delicacies.
    • Go on a Christmas themed pet play date.
    • Give them a present from Santa too!
      Snuggle and have a Christmas movie marathon.

    At the end of the day your pet loves nothing more than being with you. Enjoy spending some time together, strengthen your bond and understand your pet better this Christmas season.

    Clinical Dietitian, Simplyweight

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