Deck the halls, but don’t forget that with all of the festive decorations and holiday cheer comes risks for your pup. We spoke to Maranda Elswick, relief veterinarian and founder of the Meowing Vet, LLC about how to keep your pup safe this season:
‘Tis the season for specialty greenery like mistletoe, holly, Christmas cacti, amaryllis, and poinsettias. These plants get a bad rap for being poisonous. And while we recommend that you don't have them around your doggo, they’re not typically deadly. But they can cause GI upset, abdominal pain, drooling, diarrhea, and vomiting, while sharp edges on things like pine needles and holly can irritate the GI tract. “If your pup experiences any of these symptoms touch base with your vet,” says Elswick. The Christmas Kalanchoe, however, is fatal: Even a bite of any part of this houseplant can cause cardiac toxicity and severe heart arrhythmias, says Elswick. If you have to keep these plants in your home, place them up high where your pup can’t get to them. Or go faux! And be vigilant about vacuuming up fallen needles and keeping the tree water covered.
Tree & Trimmings
To your pup, the tree looks like one big shiny new toy set up right in the comfort of their own home. But the trimmings can be dangerous: “It’s worth it to just skip the tinsel. For ornaments, hang only shatterproof ones lower on the tree and glass ones high up,” advises Elswick. Dangling wires are really tempting, especially for puppies, because they can cause shocks or thermal burns in the mouth if nibbled. Use cord protectors on exposed wires, battery powered lights, bitter apple spray, or tape them to the ground to deter your pup from playing with them. “If you have a really inquisitive dog, anchoring your tree would be helpful. When you’re hanging your Christmas lights, place strands vertically on the tree, so if they pull one strand, it won’t rip the whole tree down,” says Elswick.
Sugarplums and Other Sweets
If you have company over it can be a total free-for-all for a pup that likes to counter or table surf for snacks. But foods like chocolate (especially dark), alcohol, sugar free baked goods (or anything with artificial sweetener in it), coffee, and tea can cause your dog to vomit or have diarrhea, even in small amounts. Signs that your dog could have eaten something can vary from GI distress, muscle tremors, increased thirst or urination, and hyperactivity. The size of your dog will also affect the severity of the reaction. Call your vet and explain your specific situation, in some cases you might have to bring your pup in so they can induce vomiting. “It’s really important to communicate to guests that you don’t feed your dogs people food, especially if your dog is super food motivated. If you don’t want to chance it, keeping them in a crate or separate food-free room might be safer,” says Elswick.
While it might seem like a no-brainer, it bears repeating. Never, ever leave your pet in a room unattended with a candle! Even if you are in the room, keep the candle far from your pup’s wagging tail. If you’re entertaining and can’t babysit each and every flame, use LED tea lights to get a similar look. It’s not worth the risk!
Gifts from Santa
Even the most mischievous dogs still end up with goodies from Santa Paws. Exercise caution before passing them along to your pup, though. Watch out for jerky treats that are made in China that can cause kidney disease, hard chews like rawhide or deer antlers that a dog can chip a tooth on, or toys that come apart easily or have parts that can be swallowed. “It’s all about knowing your dog though,” says Elswick. “If you know that he/she will rip a flimsy toy to bits and eat the filling and squeaker keep those toys away from them." You also want to be careful with ball launcher type toys if you have an older dog with arthritis or a pre-existing injury. They get so excited they’ll chase the ball and can really hurt themselves. Spoil your pup with tough toys, homemade biscuits, or even dog-friendly veggies and fruit that they enjoy instead.
Depending on your pup’s personality, they might handle unexpected visitors, doorbell ringing, or lots of people in your home one of two ways: they get withdrawn and hide or the get overly excited and they’re more unruly. “Our pets are creatures of habit that can get overly stressed when a routine changes,” says Elswick. The best thing you can do is try to provide as much of that as possible by feeding them and walking them at the same times.” Giving them a place to seek refuge to escape the hustle and bustle where company—especially kids—aren’t allowed will help. Things like calming pheromone sprays and Thunder Shirts can also help ease anxiety. Do make sure to keep your dog’s ID collar on too, just in case they manage to [wiggle out the front door](https://blog.myollie.com/why-dogs-run-away-and-how-to-stop-them/ as guests come and go!