Christmas means gathering the whole family, so of course we’ll want to include our four legged family members and avoid holiday pet dangers. And while everyone has great advice and opinions about keeping pets safe, we aim to break it down simply by separating facts from fiction… starting with that beautiful poinsettia.
Poinsettias and other plants
The poinsettia is a tropical plant native to Mexico many people associate with extreme toxicity. Not true, according to the Pet Poison Helpline. Largely an urban legend dating back to 1919, “the sap of poinsettias is considered to be mildly toxic or irritating and could cause nausea or vomiting if it’s eaten but not death.” It’s best to keep holiday plants out of reach, including holly and mistletoe, which can cause vomiting and severe stomach upset if ingested. And many varieties of lilies can cause kidney failure in cats if ingested.
Oh-No Christmas tree
Countless trees are tipped over by pets every year, injuring them and in some cases causing severe illness from water containing fertilizers. Stagnant tree water is a breeding ground for bacteria, and your pet could end up with nausea or diarrhea. Skip the fertilizers and preservatives and anchor the tree well in its stand.
This reality might leave your tree looking funny, but Fido will thank you for it. Our friends at Southern Living recommend keeping strands of sparkling lights away from the bottom few branches of your Christmas tree, beyond the reach of your pet’s curious sniffing: “Not only can pets get tangled in string lights, but these strands can give them a potentially life-threatening electrical shock if a pet bites through the wire. Tape extra lengths of electrical cord to the wall or a nearby piece of furniture.”
Ornaments and decorations
We haven’t met a kitty who doesn’t love tinsel. Skip it. If swallowed, tinsel can lead to an obstructed digestive tract, severe vomiting, dehydration and possible surgery, according to veterinarians. And broken ornaments, always a point of curiosity, can cut paws and mouths.
No myth here: don’t leave lighted candles unattended. Pets may burn themselves or cause a fire if they knock candles over.
New Year’s Eve can be a huge pet stressor, with noise often louder and lingering longer than Independence Day fireworks. Add in the “stranger danger” aspect and our Halloween tips make sense now too.
We hope your holiday season will bring a lot of guests and a lot of great food, too. The ASPCA offers excellent food safety tips here.