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Pet Wellness

5 Expert Tips For Pet Safety During the Holidays

Robin R. Ganzert, Ph.D

President and CEO, American Humane

The holidays are a special time. As we prepare to celebrate with friends and family, it’s important to make sure that the holidays are equally special – and safe – for our pets. Here are some important – and potentially lifesaving – expert tips from American Humane, the country’s first national humane organization.


Though pretty, some festive decorations can be dangerous for pets: Garland, ribbons, pine needles, and holiday plants like mistletoe, holly, and poinsettias can all pose serious health threats if eaten, so keep them away from animals. Anchor trees securely and keep tinsel out of pets’ reach. And remember to hang breakable ornaments away from curious cats and wagging tails.

Lights and candles

Keep lights and extension cords safely secured or covered to deter shocks. Get pet-proof extension cords or spray them with “chew deterrents” available online and at most pet stores. Candles are beautiful but can be a fire hazard if knocked over by a curious animal.

Food hazards

Before you give your pet that leftover turkey leg or chunk of holiday cake, know the harmful and even deadly consequences of feeding “people food” to animals. Rich, fatty foods can cause pancreatitis, and any kind of bone can tear or obstruct your pet’s intestinal tract. Onions, grapes, and raisins are toxic to pets, and chocolate can kill your dog, so keep these all out of reach. Xylitol, a sweetener found in gum and candy, can be lethal even in small quantities. Feed your pet before guests arrive and share your house rules not to feed pets scraps from the table.

Avoid stress

Animals, too, can get stressed with the bustle of the holidays. Keep pets indoors in a quiet, escape-proof room where they can get away from the excitement. With visitors coming and going, watch the door and just in case, make sure they are microchipped or have ID tags.

Making the holidays special for your pet

Provide your pet some extra attention to let them know they’re not forgotten during busy holidays. Take your dog for an extra walk — it will help both you and your pet relieve that holiday stress. Enjoy some extra snuggle time. And include a pet present in any celebrations.

The holidays are best enjoyed when the entire family is safe and happy. Be sure to visit our holiday tips page at for more helpful advice to help you and your pets now and all year round.

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