Unless you are like Scrooge, you find the holidays an enchanting time of year, but a veterinary emergency can bring a halt to your holiday plans and good times. Our Terra Linda Veterinary Hospital team wants you to avoid a pet emergency, so we are offering tips to protect your pet from holiday humbugs and help ensure you enjoy this special season.

#1: Protect your pet from Christmas tree humbugs

Decorating the Christmas tree is a quintessential seasonal activity to get in the holiday spirit, but the adorned evergreen can be dangerous for your pet. Tips to protect your pet from potential Christmas tree humbugs include:

  • Properly stabilize the tree — Secure your tree with a sturdy tree stand, ensuring the bolts are tightened well. In addition, anchor your tree to an adjacent wall or the ceiling for further stability, so your tree stays upright if your pet investigates the bristly branches.
  • Choose pet-friendly decorations — If your pet investigates and breaks a shiny fragile ornament, they may injure themselves on the sharp edges. In addition, decorations such as tinsel can cause a linear foreign body gastrointestinal (GI) obstruction if ingested. Choose pet-safe decorations for your tree, and consider hanging ornaments in the higher branches to avoid tempting your pet.
  • Secure your electrical cords — Christmas lights are lovely, but many pets like to chew on electrical cords. Ensure your cords are secured or covered to prevent an electrical shock and potential fire hazard.
  • Prevent tree water consumption — Pets enjoy tasting any new water source, but the water that hydrates the tree may contain additives that can harm your pet.

#2: Protect your pet from Christmas stocking humbugs

Ensure you hang your Christmas stockings where they are inaccessible to your pet. Stocking stuffer concerns include:

  • Small toys and objects — Your pet can easily ingest small objects, resulting in a potential GI obstruction.
  • Batteries — When chewed or punctured, alkaline batteries leak a caustic substance that can burn your pet’s mouth. Button batteries are especially dangerous, because they allow an electric current to contact tissue and can severely damage or perforate your pet’s esophageal, stomach, or intestinal lining.
  • Chocolate — Pets are sensitive to all chocolate forms, especially dark chocolate. Signs include restlessness, increased heart rate, excessive panting, vomiting, diarrhea, and seizures.
  • Xylitol — Xylitol is a sugar substitute commonly found in sugar-free candy and baked goods that is pet-toxic, causing a dose-dependent insulin release that can result in severe hypoglycemia and liver failure.

#3: Protect your pet from holiday feast humbugs

Many common holiday dishes are dangerous for pets, including:

  • Fatty foods — Most holiday dishes are infused with love—also known as butter, cream, and other fatty ingredients. High-fat foods can trigger a dangerous condition called pancreatitis in pets that is potentially life-threatening.
  • Turkey bones — Before letting your pet make a wish on the wishbone, know that cooked bones are extremely brittle, and a bone shard can severely damage your pet’s mouth or GI tract.
  • Onion — Vegetables in the Allium family, including onions, leeks, shallots, chives, and garlic, contain N-propyl disulfide, which causes oxidative damage to a pet’s red blood cells, leading to anemia.
  • Grapes — Grapes and raisins may seem like a healthy addition to your holiday dish, but this fruit can cause kidney failure in pets.

#4: Protect your pet from holiday gathering humbugs

Holiday gatherings are an important time to reconnect with family and friends, but are stressful for many pets. Tips to safeguard your pet during your next holiday gathering include:

  • Microchipping your pet — Pets are wiley, and they may sneak past your defenses if they decide to escape the rowdy crowd. Ensure your pet is properly identified, so they can be returned if they go missing. Your pet should be microchipped, which is the best form of permanent identification that can’t be lost or removed, and also should wear a collar and identification tags with your current contact information.
  • Watching exits — Post signs on your doors to alert your guests to watch for your pet when they enter or leave your home.
  • Providing a pet-safe area — Ensure your pet has a quiet escape area if the crowd becomes overwhelming. Place your pet’s bedding and favorite toys in the area, and ensure your guests don’t invade this space.
  • Seeking veterinary help — If your pet has a history of anxiety issues, consult our veterinary team to see if an anti-anxiety medication or supplement could help them cope with the holiday season.

#5: Protect your pet from holiday travel humbugs

If you are traveling with your pet for the holidays, follow these tips to help keep your pet safe and healthy:

  • Schedule a veterinary visit — Before traveling with your pet, schedule a veterinary wellness visit to ensure they are healthy enough for the trip.
  • Restrain your pet — Use a pet carrier or safety harness to restrain your pet in a moving vehicle. 
  • Avoid the cargo hold — Before flying with your pet, ensure they can travel with you in the cabin, because the cargo hold is unsafe for pets.
  • Find veterinary care — Research veterinary emergency hospitals and urgent care facilities along your route and at your final destination in case your pet needs veterinary care during your trip.

Following these tips can help you avoid holiday humbugs and keep your pet safe and secure. If you would like to schedule a veterinary wellness visit before your upcoming travels, contact our American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)-accredited team at Terra Linda Veterinary Hospital, so we can ensure they are prepared for the trip.