Holiday Pet Hazards: Keep Your Pets Safe This Season

By the staff at Petagogy

‘Tis the season for decorations, parties and food galore! It is a festive time with lots to smile about, but as you prepare your home for your holiday festivities keep in mind some simple safety measures to help keep your four-legged family members safe.

Christmas Trees and Holiday Plants
Cats and dogs may be (very) interested in the tree, and why not—it’s a little bit of the outdoors inside on those cold winter days. If your furry family member is interested in the pine tree in the corner make sure it is secured. A hefty cat on a branch or an excited jump by a pooch could topple the tree on to more than just the neatly wrapped boxes underneath. Also, keep holiday plants off the ground as many seasonal plants, including holly, mistletoe, poinsettia, lilies, as well as Christmas tree water, can be toxic if ingested by your pets.

Be mindful of low hanging decorations. Jingle bells, tinsel, lights and ribbon might look like toys to your pets. A gentle swat with a paw could lead to chewing and swallowing, which could lead to an emergency trip to the vet. Tinsel especially is thin and sharp and can easily wrap itself around the intestines or ball up in the stomach once ingested. This advice extends to your New Year’s decorating as well; balloons make great decorations, but don’t make good toys for pets. Pets can get hurt or scared if they pop, and possibly choke on or swallow the fragments. Balloon ribbons can also be a problem, particularly for cats who tend to enjoy chasing and chewing on them. Ingesting ribbon can cause vomiting or intestinal blockages.

Holiday Feasts
A highlight of the holiday season is the food. Serving sweets to your guests? Keep them up high out of your pet’s reach. Chocolate and artificial sweetener (xylitol) are very bad for your pooch (although chocolate can adversely affect cats, most have no interest in it; more than 90 percent of chocolate toxicity calls to the Pet Poison Helpline are for dogs). Grapes and their dried cousins—raisins—are also common in holiday foods like fruitcake and appetizer platters but are hazardous to pets.

Additionally, although a few bites of plain turkey or vegetables are fine, the spices, sauces and butter used to make the turkey and sides delicious for your guests are not, so keep leftovers out of the dog bowl and encourage guests not to feed pets from their plate. No turkey or ham bones either—once the bones have been cooked they pose a serious hazard for your pets. Raw, uncooked bones are safe, but when they are cooked they become hard and can crack, splinter or be come lodged in the throat.

Holiday Guests
Family and friends may be coming to visit over the holidays or perhaps you are planning a holiday party. Guests may enjoy a holiday libation and can become lax about making sure doors and gates are closed, may leave their adult beverage within your pet’s reach, or may even feed your pet something they shouldn’t have (like foods containing chocolate, grapes or raisins)—all of which can be dangerous to your furry friends. Additionally, make sure houseguests keep suitcases and personal items off the floor and out of your pet’s reach so they can’t access anything unsafe like medications (or chew up your guest’s shoes and socks!). In situations where your party guests may not be pet savvy or they may not make the “best” decisions, it might be best to keep them separated in another room for the evening. Also, make sure they are wearing current ID tags and are micro-chipped in case they escape during the flow of guests in and out of your house.

Gifts for Your Pet
People love to spoil other people’s pets and may want to buy something tasty for your furkids. Be cautious; not everyone reads FDA warnings and may be unaware that certain chicken jerky and other treats made in China have been making pets sick. If you don’t trust the brand or know where the ingredients are sourced from, be gracious but don’t risk giving it to your pet just to be polite to the gift-giver. I promise your pet won’t rat you out.

If you think your pet may have eaten something toxic, call pet poison animal control immediately. Keep these resources handy as a precaution:

• ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center: (888) 426-4435, ($65 per incident fee)
• Pet Poison Helpline: (855) 764-7661, ($39 per incident fee)

Petagogy (pronounced pet-uh-go-jee) specializes in premium and natural pet foods, treats and supplies. Petagogy is located at 5880 Ellsworth Avenue in Shadyside. Store hours are Monday through Saturday from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm and Sunday from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. Learn more at

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