December is flying by, and you have a great deal on your mind. Finishing up your shopping, making sure everything is wrapped, and organizing a few holiday parties are probably high on your priority list – but don’t forget about your pets!

This is a beautiful season, but we hate to break it to you – holiday décor, presents, and plants can all be hazardous to your furry friends if you’re not on the lookout. Make sure they can join in the fun by following these safety tips!

1. Beware of pine needles and poinsettias

These two “P’s” may be some of the loveliest and most recognizable holiday décor around, but they can be unsafe for animals. In particular, pine needles from real Christmas trees can lead to a blockage of the intestines and/or throat if ingested by a cat or dog. And we don’t have to tell you how lovely a real Christmas tree smells, so no wonder an animal would be interested in it!

However, just because your pet didn’t consume pine needles doesn’t mean they’re out of the woods (no pun intended). Pine needles on the floor can actually become trapped in a cat or dog’s paws, and we can only imagine how painful this would be! Our recommendation? Opt for a fake Christmas tree instead of a real one, as your pet will probably not be interested in it. If you can’t bear to forgo your real tree, then be as diligent as possible about vacuuming loose pine needles, and keep your pet away from the tree. Better yet, place it in a room that your pet won’t even enter!

collie breed dog sitting with poinsettia

Now, on to poinsettias. We know they’re gorgeous and festive, but they’re downright toxic to dogs and cats due to a milky white sap that contains chemicals and detergents. If your dog or cat ingests any part of this plant, you’ll likely see vomiting, drooling, and other symptoms. While these plants are not extremely poisonous, you don’t want to cause any harm to your beloved pets. Just keep them out of your home. If you must have one, place it on a high surface that a cat couldn’t even access!

We hate to burst your bubble even more, but holly and mistletoe have similar effects as poinsettias. We know, we know – this really puts a damper on the holiday season! Just treat these plants as you would any other toxic food for pets, and you’ll keep them out of harm’s way.

2. Be mindful of what’s on the tree…

Speaking of pine needles, you’ll likely spend time decorating your tree with lights, tinsel, and ornaments. As you should! However, if you have pets in your home, you’ll need to rethink your strategy slightly. The lights on your tree contain cords and hot bulbs, both of which are hazardous to dogs and cats alike. When placing lights on your tree, leave the lower branches bare, as low-hanging items are the perfect opportunity for animals to get tangled up in wires, or even chew on cords. If you can, secure electrical cords and outlets so pets cannot access them at all.

holiday tree tinsel dog groomer decorations

Shiny and stringy tinsel is simply not pet-friendly – it attracts pets and can cause serious problems if ingested. Choose a thicker garland to wrap around your tree instead. There aren’t many rules around ornaments, but we caution against placing any on the lower branches for the same reason you’d avoid lights in that area – don’t give pets a chance to access any potentially edible or breakable decorations. And this goes without saying, but avoid placing any food ornaments on the tree – this is just asking for trouble!

3. …and underneath the tree

Wrapping gifts and placing them under the tree is one of the best parts of the holidays, and not knowing what’s in those boxes is even more exciting! However, you’re not the only one who is curious about what’s in those packages – your pet will try to sniff out each wrapped gift, and this could end badly. While this is a tricky situation to maneuver, you need to be careful. If Grandma Hazel drops off a few wrapped gifts at your door and you don’t know what’s inside them, refrain from placing them under the tree until it’s time to open them. You never know – those boxes could be filled with chocolates, which are toxic for cats and dogs!

Also, don’t forget about holiday stockings filled with treats! Hanging them by the chimney with care isn’t safe enough – make sure they’re completely out of reach of your pets.

4. Give them a safe space

‘Tis the season to entertain, and while this is fun for you and your loved ones, it can be stressful for pets. One way to make sure they stay calm and comfortable is to set up an area away from the noise and activity where they can retreat. As a pet owner, your home is already friendly for your four-legged pals, so choose a quiet bedroom or other space with plenty of food, water and toys on hand.

dog in a safe space with christmas hat

Not only will this allow your pets to rest peacefully, it will also protect them from scary situations – guests occasionally share their finger foods with resident animals, and children can sometimes be less-than-gentle with animals they’re not used to. Eliminate these possibilities by keeping your pets away from the party!

5. Stick to a regular diet (and gifts!)

Your pets are part of your family, and we completely understand how wonderful this time of year can be with them! You love to spoil them and give them with their own holiday stockings and gifts. However, we have to caution against going overboard with holiday gifts for your pets. Hear us out…

It’s a chaotic time of year with guests coming and going, and strange objects in the home such as plants and ornaments. What your pet needs is a great deal of structure in their diet and routine. If you’re used to feeding them a certain type of food at a certain time each day, try to stick to this as much as possible.

As well, don’t buy a festive new treat for them just because it suits the time of year. It may disagree with your pet if they’re used to a regimented diet, and you don’t want to run the risk of making them sick! By all means, spoil your pet as much as you like, but try not to stray from their usual diet and treats in the process – trust us, they’ll appreciate any delicious gifts, no matter how familiar they may be!

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