5 Holiday Safety Tips for Pets

Dr. Ragen T.S. McGowan, PhD
By Dr. Ragen T.S. McGowan, PhD
Updated: 5/9/20242-4 minutes
5 holiday safety tips for pets

The holidays are filled with joy, laughter and time spent with family and friends. In the bustle of the season, however, it’s easy to forget these festivities aren’t always pet friendly.  

Purina veterinarian, Dr. Callie Harris, DVM explains which holiday treats, foods, decor and more pose a risk to pets. She also offers expert holiday pet safety tips to ensure a fun-filled season for the whole family, including the four-legged family members.  

Whether it’s New Year’s, Independence Day, Halloween or Thanksgiving, pet safety is an essential part of making any holiday a time of carefree enjoyment.  

Keep These Items Out of Reach for Better Holiday Pet Safety

1. Hazardous Gifts

If you have a pet, you’re on high alert when hazardous items come into your home. Be as conscientious when you are a guest by adding special tags to gifts that aren’t pet friendly, so your host can place them out of reach of curious cats and dogs.  

Of course, holiday dog treats or pet gifts should not include any ribbons, bows or anything that might cause harm to a pet if they get ahold of it.  
We’ve created a printable gift tag template so you can mark gifts and other items as hazardous to pets.  

2. Ribbons, Bows & Other Decor 

Gift ribbons and similar decorations can cause serious harm if pets ingest them. Household decor with moving or hanging pieces or electrical components can also pose a threat.  
“As soon as gifts are opened, take the ribbons, strings and wrapping paper away,” advises Dr. Harris. “Cats especially love playing with ribbons and strings. This can be quite dangerous for your pet if they do not know how to play with them safely.”  

3. Holiday Plants

Holiday plants can also pique your dog or cat’s interest.  
“At Christmastime, you may have new plants in the house that are poisonous to pets. Many types of lilies are particularly toxic to cats, and azaleas, holly, mistletoe and poinsettias are also poisonous. Be cautious and aware of what’s coming into your house,” advises Dr. Harris, otherwise, “Pets may sniff and eat them, and it may only take a small amount to cause illness.”  

4. Certain Ingredients

Holiday meals contain some favorite, seasonal ingredients, and although they’re tasty to humans, many are harmful to pets. When creating your holiday pet safety checklist, be mindful of ingredients that could be harmful to your dogs and cats. 
You already know to avoid chocolate, but you’ll also want to watch for grapes and raisins in your cookies and cakes, along with chopped onions and garlic that may be used in an array of recipes. Dr. Harris says, “These ingredients can be, unfortunately, toxic for our pets.”  
Xylitol (also known as birch sugar or birch sap) is another ingredient toxic to pets. This sugar alternative is found in an array of foods from cake and cookie mixes to yogurt and peanut butter. It is also found in most types of chewing gum.  

5. Purses & Coats

Your pet’s curiosity and the scents of new guests may lead them to root through your guests’ purses or winter coats. This can seem harmless and even comical at first, but your dog or cat could find medications, chewing gum and other harmful items.  
According to Dr. Harris, “Ibuprofen can cause severe adverse effects to our pets and the decongestants we use in the winter months also pose a major threat.” Place your guests’ belongings in a coat closet or a closed-off room where your pets won’t have access.  
By following these holiday safety tips for pets, you can avoid many seasonal risks to your pet and enjoy a fun-filled, safe holiday. It’s always wise to prepare for the worst-case scenario, though, so keep your veterinarian’s number in your phone and ask about their emergency procedures during the holidays.  
We also recommend adding the number for the Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) to your phone: (888) 426-4435. They’re available 24/7, including holidays, though they may charge a fee for any services provided.  
For more holiday tips from our experts, visit our Pet Expertise page. 

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