Keeping Pets Safe During the Holiday Season

Dr Julie Schell  BSc(Hons), DVM, CVA, CVCHM

It is important to be aware of the safety of our pets, especially with the excitements and business of the Christmas season.
Some dangers to be cautious of as well as solutions to increase safety include:

Holiday Stress and the Dangers of House-Guests and Visitors-

With many doors opening and closing, pets have escaped, or accidentally been let outside.  Often, pets are nervous and anxious around all the new people and noises, especially children they are not used to.


-Bring pets to a great daycare centre that they enjoy, take dogs for more walks, increase play sessions with your cat and dog.  Purchasing a few new toys helps keep them happy.

-Cats can be kept in a quiet room with food / water, toys, catnip, litter and signs that say “Caution Cat Inside- do not open this door”.

-There are excellent calming herbs, treats and supplements, food puzzles, toys, chews that your veterinarian has to help them relax.  Examples include BioCalm liquid, and Mellows chews.  Pets love the taste and they are very effective.

-Pure essential oils and Feliway or Adaptil Pheromone Spray, Diffuser, or Collar for pets are relaxing and calming.  These products are available from your veterinarian

-Ensure pets are wearing collars with identification at all times.

-Microchip the pet for identification and so he/she can be returned to you if lost.

-Maintain your pet’s routine to prevent stress. Continue their exercise, playtime, grooming and feeding schedules.

-Massaging your pet is an excellent way for people and pets to relax.  Check out these massage techniques:

2. Safe versus Unsafe Holiday Foods

-unsafe include most baking items, especially those high in butter, raisins, alcohol, onions, fat, and some nuts such as walnuts and macadamia nuts;

-Pets can have food allergies– sometimes house guests may think a pet will be fine if offered a ‘safe’ item like a bread bun, however some pets may be extremely allergic to seemingly benign foods.

-Chocolate can be deadly, especially dark.

-Xylitol and other artificial sweeteners are deadly- can cause life threatening hypoglycemic


-Warn guests and also get dog to wear a sign on his collar saying   “Please do Not Feed Me Treats”

-Offer healthy foods that guests can feed your pet such as cooked brussels sprouts, broccoli, safe dog chews and cookies or pieces of the dog’s own healthy kibble

-Keep all unsafe Christmas food inside fridges, cupboards and on high counter-tops where pets cannot reach.

-Bake for your pet some healthy, safe pet treats:   and


3. Decorations

– Electrocution by Christmas lights, ribbons can be ingested by cats due to their barbed tongue, and not just tinsel.

-Use cord covers, bitter spray on electrical cords, tuck cords away

-Secure tree because cats will climb, and so do some dogs.

-Avoid dangerous plants such as Amaryllis, Christmas Cactus, Mistletoe, Holly, and even Poinsettias can cause severe stomach and intestinal pain and disease if ingested.   Lily flowers, leaves and stems are deadly as they cause kidney failure.

-Scented candles smell so good that pets often eat them, and sometimes unscented candles as well!  Long candles have a long wick which pets can swallow whole. This can tangle inside their intestines casing cuts, or can even plug their stomach or intestine and prevent food from passing through.

–          Do not use Tinsel on Trees, or any other decorations that have long strands that could be swallowed by a cat or dog

–          Keep candles high up and away from animals

–          Ensure that the Christmas tree is secured and anchored to help prevent it from falling down if cats climb it.

–          Do not put edible gifts under the tree unsupervised.  Even if wrapped in Christmas wrapping, pets will smell them and eat them.  Often they will eat the wrapper too!

4.  Cold Weather

–          If it is too cold outside for people unless they have to wear a warm coat, gloves and toque, then it is too cold for a pet unless they too are dressed up.

–          Comfortable jackets and coats are available for your pet at your veterinary hospital and pet stores

–          Booties are also available in a variety of designs- including strapless rubber booties and also fuzzy fleece types and ones with Velcro fasteners.

–          Some cats love cuddling up next to a warm water bottle covered in a soft blanket or towel indoors, and also often pets like to sleep near the warm fireplace.  You can place their beds nearby.

For more information check out Bow Bottom Veterinary Hospital at or call 403-278-1984


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