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Ten Tips to Keep Your Pet Safe This Holiday

Red cat at home in Christmas time

The holidays—and all of the excitement of decorations, activities, and guests—make this time of year special. Ensuring the season is enjoyable for the entire family means keeping your pet’s needs in mind, says Dr. Steve Marks, Associate Dean and Director of Medical Services at North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.

a cute Cocker Spaniel in front of a christmas tree with a santa hat

“Like young children, pets can become excitable over the holidays as the household routine changes and new elements are introduced into the environment,” says Dr. Marks who also is a clinical professor of internal medicine and critical care. “And just as the holidays can be stressful for people, pets may also feel overwhelmed by all the activity.”

According to Dr. Marks, owners should anticipate situations where a pet can find itself detracting from holiday cheer by knocking over a fully decorated Christmas tree to being rushed to emergency veterinary care.

Here are a few tips for a safe and enjoyable holiday season:


  • Feed pets before guests arrive to avoid begging and consumption of the wrong type of food.
  • As always, think good nutrition and ensure your pet does not eat rich, fatty foods and table scrapes; bones; and human foods that may be toxic to animals such as onions, grapes, chocolate, coffee; keep leftover food out of reach. Note: the fragrant string from cooking a turkey or roast is particularly appealing, and dangerous, to dogs.
  • If strangers upset your pet, place the pet in a quiet, safe room while entertaining. This also keeps the pet from rushing out an opened door when guests arrive.
  • Anchor Christmas trees; climbing cats and curious dogs can knock over your tree.
  • Hang breakable ornaments out of a pet’s reach to avoid cut paws.



  • Keep tinsel, ribbons and garland away from pets; if swallowed, the material can become lodged in your pet’s intestines and result in an emergency trip to the veterinarian.
  • Do not let your pet drink tree stand water, stagnant water can contain bacteria or you may have used tree preservative chemicals.
  • Watch where you place holiday plants. Poinsettias, mistletoe, and holly can upset your pet’s digestive system and can cause vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and lethargy.
  • Keep lights and extension cords safely secured or covered to deter chewing, which can lead to shock or even electrocution.
  • Exposure to liquid potpourri and sachets can cause skin or oral damage to your pet and potential illness or death.


Finally, have your veterinarian’s number handy. If your pet requires immediate care and your veterinarian is not available, the NC State Veterinary Hospital Small Animal Emergency Service will be open throughout the holidays. Call 919.513.6911.