Keep your holidays merry and bright with these animal safety tips

It’s a busy time of year. People are coming and going, houses are dripping with sparkly decorations and cookies are everywhere. But, in order for the holiday season to go smoothly for everyone it’s important to be mindful of pets so holiday celebrations don’t end at the vet’s office (unless you’re bringing the vet a present for being so awesome).


We’re all a little more generous during the holidays, which pets can take advantage of when throwing around the puppy eyes at the dinner table. Often, “people food” can cause stomach upset for pets or pose a potentially more dangerous risk.

  • Fatty foods: Food with high fat, sugar and/or starch content can cause stomach upset or, in more serious cases, can lead to pancreatitis. This occurs when the pancreas is working extra hard to produce digestive enzymes to breakdown those fatty/sugary/starchy foods. This then can lead to inflammation and a potentially severe illness, including vomiting and loss of appetite, said Neogen’s Dr. Jim Little.
  • Bones: Poultry bones are a major concern when feeding pets “people food”. Small bones, such as ribs, can splinter and become lodged in an animal’s esophagus or digestive tract. Bones caught in the esophagus may not cause a pet to cough, making it difficult to notice there’s an issue. However, if a pet can’t swallow, doesn’t want to eat, has a fever or becomes lethargic, contact your veterinarian.
  • Spices and toxic items: Spices and ingredients, such as sage, nutmeg, garlic and nuts, can cause stomach upset, diarrhea and vomiting, especially in pets with sensitive stomachs. Other items, such as chocolate and grapes, can be toxic to pets as well. Keep them out of reach.

Inedible items that look like food (or are just sparkly)

And all the stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hope that Mr. Fuzzypaws would keep his little kitty mitts off of them this year. Alas, despite our best efforts pets often get into holiday decorations. Objects such as ornaments, ribbon, tinsel and other decorations can be potentially harmful to pets, especially if they’re swallowed. Often, these foreign bodies must be surgically removed, said Dr. Little.

Poinsettias also are a concern for pets, as they are potentially toxic. Although they’re not as deadly as popular belief makes them out to be, they still can cause stomach issues for our furry friends.


The holidays are a chaotic time. Friends and family are in and out, people are travelling and there’s often a major shift in the environment as decorations go up. All of this can be very disorienting to a pet, which may not be used to all the excitement.

If people are visiting, a pet’s routine may be disrupted and, depending on the animal, they may not handle it well, said Dr. Little.

Owners should be mindful of known issues the pet has, such as not getting along with children or getting scared by loud noises.


‘Tis the season to travel and often, pets go along for the ride. Just like humans, pets need to stretch their legs and use the restroom often during long car trips. Also, be mindful if your pet has a history of car sickness.

If travelling out of state, a certificate of veterinary inspection may be needed. Contact your veterinarian for more information on the inspection.

Outdoor animals

If the weather outside is frightful, ensure horses and other outdoor pets and livestock have adequate shelter.

“Some horses would rather be outside in most weather, but at the very least, a wind break is nice to have available,” said Dr. Little. “Having access to adequate and appropriate food sources – especially roughage and hay—is essential as well to maintain body condition and body heat.”

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