The holiday season is a time to relax, indulge and have fun with friends and family. Dogs often love Christmas and New Year’s Eve too, as they get lots of attention and spend more time with their loved ones.
Unfortunately, the holiday season also creates a range of potential dangers for pets. Everything from decorations to your Christmas meal can be hazardous, so it’s important to know how to keep your pet safe.
With that in mind, here are seven holiday-season dangers to avoid.
1. Chocolate Tree Decorations
Most dog owners know chocolate is bad for dogs. This is because it contains a substance called theobromine, which causes symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, breathing problems, and, in severe cases, seizures.
The problem at Christmas time is there is much more chocolate around the house than usual. Some of this chocolate, such as tree decorations, may be within reach of your pet.
For this reason, it’s best to avoid chocolate decorations. If you must have them, place them high on the tree where your pet can’t reach. And make sure any presents containing food aren’t placed under the tree – you don’t want to be visiting an emergency vet on Christmas morning after your dog ate an entire box of chocolates!
2. Relatives and Friends
Christmas can be a wonderful time for a dog. He gets to spend time with the family, play with friends and relatives, and maybe even get a few presents of his own.
The break in routine can be stressful though – especially if you have lots of friends and family over during the holiday period. Over-excited children, tipsy adults and lots of loud noises can be difficult for a dog to deal with.
So, it’s vital for all guests to understand how your dog should be treated. Make a safe space for him away from noise and activity, and tell everyone – including children – that he should be left alone whenever he’s there. Watch closely when children are playing with him, and intervene before the game gets out of hand. And inform all guests of basic rules, such as giving your dog space when he’s eating or sleeping.
Alcohol is another Christmas staple that’s dangerous for dogs. Canine kidneys aren’t designed to handle alcohol, and many ingredients in drinks – such as grapes in wine – are also toxic.
You’re unlikely to want to give your dog an alcoholic drink anyway, but with lots of guests in your home, especially those who may not be dog-aware, a mistake is possible.
To prevent a dangerous accident, ask all guests to put their drinks on tables rather than on the floor. The same goes for any food that might contain alcohol.
4. Christmas Crackers
There are two reasons Christmas crackers can be dangerous for your pet: noise and the small gifts inside.
The loud bangs of crackers being pulled before a meal can be distressing for a dog. Just like fireworks, your pet won’t understand what’s happening, and may already be highly stressed due to the exciting environment.
Those small gifts inside each cracker can also be a choking hazard. It’s common for these to fly out of the cracker when it’s pulled, making it easy for one or two to get lost during the commotion of a Christmas meal.
Whether you need to avoid crackers altogether depends on your dog. If your pet doesn’t mind loud noises and you check all the gifts are accounted for, then just putting your dog in another room is fine. If your pet finds loud noises upsetting, crackers are a tradition to avoid.
5. Streamers & Tinsel
Light glinting off tinsel can make this common Christmas decoration an attractive target for dogs. Unfortunately, chewing tinsel can lead to serious issues in the digestive tract, as the long strands won’t dissolve and can get caught in the intestine.
If you have tinsel or streamers in your home, make sure your dog isn’t left alone with any he can access. This can be difficult if it’s all over your home, so tinsel is probably another type of decoration to avoid.
6. Leftover Food
Some dog owners give their pet leftovers after a roast. While the dog is certain to enjoy the tasty food, giving leftovers can be potentially dangerous.
The problem is there are many human foods that are toxic to dogs. Examples include onions, shallots, garlic, chives, artificial sweeteners, and many nuts. Some of these will cause a stomach upset, while others can have more serious consequences.
This means it’s never a good idea to give your pet leftovers. If you want to give him a Christmas meal, buy a special dog chew or treats instead.
7. Electric Cables & Christmas Tree Light
Dogs tend to ignore power cables once they’ve passed the puppy chewing phase. This makes it easy to become complacent about the dangers of home electronics.
All those Christmas tree lights mean there are more cables around over the holiday period though – and even partially chewing one can lead to a severe electric shock.
To prevent this, all power cords should either be inaccessible or protected with a chew-proof cover. This might seem excessive, but it’s the only way to make sure your pet stays safe.
On a related note, if you use real candles over Christmas, make sure these are kept away from your pet. Aside from the dangers of knocking over a lit candle, eating one could block the dog’s intestine.
Keeping your dog safe over Christmas takes a bit more planning and effort than usual. There are many new dangers in the home during the holiday period, which is why vet visits are unfortunately common during this time.
The good news is, with a little foresight and awareness, your pet can enjoy Christmas just as much as the rest of the family.
If you have any questions or comments about keeping pets safe over Christmas, please let me know in the comments section. I’ll do my best to respond to any feedback.