‘Tis the season for decorating the tree, putting up lights and eating tasty sweets. The holidays are a time of joy and happiness. You want to make sure your beloved pets are healthy and happy too. There are potential hazards for your pets around the holidays when it comes to decorations, sweets, plants and even wrapping gifts. Follow the below tips to ensure their safety this holiday season.

Christmas Tree

Tree – If possible, place your tree in the corner of a room. This will help to prevent your pet from knocking it over. If your pet jumps into the tree and it falls over, it can cause precious ornaments to break which is upsetting for you, and can lead to injury for them. It would be ideal to set your tree up in a room where you can close the door, so that when you aren’t home you can prevent your pet from getting to it.

Ornaments -Avoid putting glass ornaments on the lower branches. If your cat or doggie gets their paws on these (and believe me, they will try) it is not only a choking hazard, but if an ornament breaks, the glass shards may injure mouths, paws and other parts of their body.

Tinsel – Tinsel is probably the most dangerous Christmas decoration for your pet. If your pet gets a hold of tinsel, and swallows even a few strands, it can cause intestinal blockage and has the potential to be fatal. To err on the side of caution, it’s best to avoid tinsel altogether.

Pine Needles – It’s impossible to prevent pine needles from falling off your tree, but try and keep the area as clean as possible by vacuuming daily. If ingested, the needles can puncture the intestines. Keep plenty of water in the tree stand to reduce the number of fallen pine needles.

Lights – Try and keep these out of reach as well by avoiding the lower branches. Other than the burning hazard, your pet can get tangled up in them. Additionally, your pet may accidentally get shocked if they bite through the wire. Most importantly, make sure the end part of the extension cord is tucked away.

Holiday Plants

The following plants are poisonous to your pet:

Mistletoe – Upset stomach and can cause heart collapse.

Holly leaves and berries – Can be fatal, and at the very least will cause an upset stomach.

Poinsettias – Upset stomach and can cause blistering in the mouth.

If you decide to decorate with these plants, keep them far out of your pet’s reach. Even better, opt for fake versions.

Gift Wrapping

Ribbons, Yarn and String – If ingested, these can cause intestinal obstruction as well as bunching of the intestine along the length of the string. These conditions can be fatal and may require surgery.

Scissors – Keep them off low tables or floors to avoid injury to your pet.

When wrapping gifts, it’s best to go in a room where you can close yourself off from your pet. Other than the hazards mentioned above, it can be difficult to get the actual wrapping done if your pet keeps laying down on the wrapping paper.


Chocolate –  Best case scenario, eating chocolate can cause vomiting and diarrhea in your pet. Worst case scenario, it can be toxic to the heart and nervous system, causing muscle tremors, heart problems, and seizures. The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous. Do not place wrapped boxes of chocolate under the tree. Your dog can sniff them out and chew through the packaging to get to the chocolate.

Alcohol – While you’re probably aware that alcohol is highly toxic to your pet, one thing many people don’t think of is alcohol-filled desserts. If rum cake, for example is left out, it can be dangerous to your pet. Ingestion of alcohol can cause vomiting, diarrhea and brain damage, just to name a few, and can even lead to death.

Raisins and Grapes – Raisins and grapes contain a toxin that can damage the kidneys, which can lead to sudden kidney failure.

Sugar-free Baked Goods – The artificial sweetener xylitol, which is found in some sugar-free baked goods, can cause your pet’s blood pressure to drop to dangerously low levels. Other potential symptoms include loss of coordination, vomiting, seizures and liver failure.

If your pet gets into any of these foods, try and determine how much was consumed, and contact your vet so they can advise you on a course of action. If you suspect that your pet has ingested alcohol, contact your vet or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center immediately. For a longer list of harmful foods to your dog, check out our post here. You can find a longer list of harmful foods to your cat here.