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Pet Safety: Pet Safety Tips for the Holidays

Original Publication Date: December 16, 2013
By C. Sue Furman, Ph.D.

A cheery, well-decorated Christmas tree is a symbol of the joy of the holiday season for us, but the tree and other decorations can be dangerous to our furry family members.

A few simple steps can allow your pets to safely join in the holiday fun.

Attractive, shiny and unusual tree decorations appeal to us and can also catch the attention of curious dogs or cats.

Edible strings of popcorn and cranberries are magnets for a pup.

Shiny tinsel and other types of garland also invite your pet.

A tug or two on the tasty or eye-catching strands can lead to a toppled tree that can potentially injure a curious pet.

Be sure to firmly anchor a tree to a wall or the ceiling to prevent any dangerous mishaps.

Danger still exists. Chomped decorations can damage a pet's mouth and potentially cause an intestinal blockage that may require surgery to remedy.

Electrical cords for the tree lights and other decorations also pose a threat. A curious pup that uses a cord for a chew toy can be seriously injured or even electrocuted.

Simply run the cords through PVC or a commercial computer cable wrap to discourage a snoopy dog from chewing. If possible, only allow your pet in the room with the tree when a human is present to supervise and keep him safe.

Holly, mistletoe and poinsettias beautifully decorate and brighten our homes during the holiday season but are poisonous to dogs and cats if ingested.

There's no need to eliminate plants from your cheery holiday decorations. Just be sure to set them out of reach of your curious four-legged friends.

Candles are another holiday staple that give a soft glow and add fragrance during the holidays. However, they can be burn hazards for our dogs and cats.

Once again, no need to deprive yourself of candles. Just put them on a mantel or other high shelf to keep them out of the way of a curious nose or a wagging tail.

Pets love to share holiday food. A few small, boneless pieces of cooked turkey, a taste of mashed potato or even a lick of pumpkin pie shouldn't pose a problem.

Sage can make your turkey stuffing taste delish, but it and many other herbs contain essential oils and resins that can cause gastrointestinal upset and central nervous system depression to pets if eaten in large quantities. Stick to small amounts of pet-safe foods to keep the holiday merry.

You have prepared wisely and are ready to entertain. The door bell rings, and you happily welcome family and friends, but the newcomers may be stressful strangers to your pets. It is often a good idea to have a quiet place for your dog or cat to hang out. It can be a crate or a separate room where they feel safe. With a little forethought, you, your family, friends and pets can have a very merry holiday season.

Sue Furman, Ph.D., has published two books and a DVD on canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, acupressure, first aid and CPR. See her schedule and submit questions at