Every year we get the opportunity to celebrate many holidays with our pets, which includes lots of food, gifts, and the excitement of gathering with loved ones. With all this activity, it’s important to ensure we’re taking some extra precautions for the paws underfoot.

To give you some peace of mind when preparing for holiday festivities with your pet, we’re sharing some of our top tips on how to keep pets safe, plus a few gift ideas when your shopping for a special cat or dog in your life.

Mind the Decorations

From hanging ornaments to lit candles, both the appearance and presence of your favorite decorations might lead your pet to think of them as toys or things to be chewed on. Here are some common items to watch for:

  • Wrapping, ribbons, tinsel, lights, and small ornaments: If consumed, these may cause your pet to choke or have an internal blockage.
  • Glass and metal hooks: Put delicate items up high to avoid breaks as these items could cause a nasty scratch or puncture to your pet.
  • Electrical wires: Many animals are prone to chewing on cords which can lead to electrical shock, burns, and blockages if ingested.
  • Christmas trees and standing displays: Curious pets, especially those prone to climbing, can knock over these centerpieces and injure themselves as well as others. Having a secure base and monitoring your pet can help avoid accidents.

Be mindful of where you’re placing decorations and make sure any potential objects that your pet could mistake as a toy are placed out of their reach.

Did Someone Say Treats?

When pets consume human food that they shouldn’t – either when left unattended or offered by good-intentioned but unaware people, it can lead to problems for us and our pets. The top things to watch for are:

  • Chocolate: In general cocoa powder and darker chocolate are more dangerous, however, the ingestion of chocolate along with its other components like wrapping, nuts, and fruit can also be a cause for concern. There are many chocolate toxicity calculators available online that you can use to evaluate the dangers of chocolate to your pet if they have ingested it.
  • Uncooked meat: Bacteria like Salmonella in raw meat can be harmful to pets. Meat like ham can also be high in sodium, which is not healthy in large amounts.
  • Bread dough: The yeast in uncooked bread can cause expansion of the dough in your pet’s stomach, which can put pressure on their organs and cause their stomach to bloat.
  • Alcohol: High levels of alcohol are dangerous to your pet, even if they’re used for cooking purposes! Don’t forget about other foods that may contain alcohol, like fruitcakes.
  • Candy and artificial sweeteners: High amounts of sugar can negatively affect your pet. Xylitol (often found in chewing gum, sugar-free candy, and peanut butter) is extremely toxic to dogs and cats, even in small amounts, and can require immediate veterinary care if your pet eats anything containing it.

It’s important to pay attention to the amount of human food your pets are getting, even if they are allowed small samples. If you and your guests each give samples of food high in sugar, fat, and salt to your pets, it can lead to an upset stomach and long-term medical concerns like pancreatitis.

Don’t Be Fooled by Beautiful Plant Life

Plants often smell and look interesting to pets and can have textures that can be tempting to chew on for animals. Some common holiday plants to keep away from pets include:

  • Poinsettia: Although only mildly toxic, exposure to the sap or ingestion can still cause irritation and discomfort in your pets.
  • Lilies: These are especially dangerous to cats since the entire plant can be toxic. If you have cats at home, it’s safer to avoid having lilies entirely.
  • Mistletoe: Consumption can cause gastrointestinal upset. If the berries have been replaced with plastic, these can also pose a risk for choking or blockages.
  • Christmas trees: If you have a live tree, your pet can irritate their stomach by eating the pine needles or by drinking the water, which can contain preservatives and sap.

Remember, festive plants might be wonderful to look at, but they can be very dangerous for your pets. Make sure you keep any plants out of their reach.

Be Mindful of Medications

The cold weather and variety of uncommon foods, plus extra guests – can mean there are more opportunities for medications that can cause harm to your pet to be around. Taking medication not meant for you is harmful not just for you, but your pet as well. Here are some common ones to watch out for:

  • Cough & Throat Lozenges: Easing a sore throat can pose a few risks to your pets, as unattended packages or loose mints set on a table can be a choking hazard and may also contain xylitol. These may also contain pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine, which can negatively affect pets in large doses.
  • Pill & Gel Pain Relievers: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) like aspirin and ibuprofen are toxic to pets and can cause kidney damage. Ferrets are especially sensitive to ibuprofen. Acetaminophen, which is found in Tylenol, can cause liver damage to both both cats and dogs.
  • Liquid Cold & Flu Medications: These drugs often contain a variety of ingredients (including some listed above) that can be just as dangerous for pets as the pill forms. Common medications to watch out for are Sudafed, Tylenol Cold, Nyquil, and Benylin.

Always store any medications somewhere safe where your pet can’t get into them, such as a locked cabinet, so that you don’t have to worry about them mistaking these hazardous substances as treats or food.

Contact A Vet If Concerned

If your pet does get into something, and you are concerned about their health, seek veterinary care as soon as possible. Your pet may be showing few or no signs of illness, but pets can be good at hiding their pain and even small amounts of a substance can quickly become harmful to your pet.

To help your vet determine treatment if your pet does get into something they shouldn’t, be sure to write down what you think your pet ingested (bring the substance and packaging if possible), how much you think they consumed, and approximately what time you believe they ingested it.

Cat and Dog at Christmas

Purr-fect Gifts for Your Pets

We’ve talked about the hazards to your pets that the holiday season brings, but what about the paw-sitive things you can do for your pet? To help you with your next shopping trip we have assembled this quick list of gift ideas for you to give to your pet which will help keep them happy and safely distracted from any hazards.

3 Ideas for Holiday Gifts for Dogs

1. Paw-lity Time Together

Quality time together spent giving your dog a relaxing massage and brushing can help your pet feel at ease during the stresses that the holiday season can bring. Our very own Bingo’s Pet Shop has a variety of brushes to help stop the shed and make your dog feel like they’re having their own spa day. You can read our cooperative care basics and nail trimming resources for tips on how to make grooming an enjoyable experience for your dog.


2. Enriching Toys and Fun

Give your dog something new to enjoy their food in, like a Kong or snuffle mat. This is a great way to engage your dog’s brain during feeding time and is a fun activity for them too. Take a look at our Kong Stuffing Guide for tips on making an enrichment experience that your dog can enjoy.


3. The Gift of Bonding Time

A training class is a great way to build your bond. Classes are a rewarding way to spend time with your dog, teach them new skills, and are like a promise of spending quality time together each week. EHS offers a variety of group classes that will help bring you and your dog closer together.

3 Ideas for Holiday Gifts for Cats

1. Make Catnip Bubbles

Give catnip bubbles a try! Regular catnip is great for engaging your cat’s nose, but bubbles both look and smell interesting. Watching your cat investigate the bubbles is a great way to watch them enjoy something and bond.


2. Encourage Safe Scratching

Make a scratch pad for your cat to enjoy and to save your home from any unwanted scratching. Scratching is a natural behaviour for cats and allows them to maintain their nails, so a new post can be a relief for both you and your cat.


3. Chase and Catch Toys

Engage in your cat’s natural desire to chase and catch things by getting them a dangly toy with feathers and bells to entice them. The Catit Door Hanger Catnip Toy is great because you can hang it from a door handle, or tie it to a rope to make a flirt pole. Not only is it super fun to watch your cat chase the toy but it also gives them exercise. .

Help Your Pet De-Stress

Helping your cat or dog de-stress during the holiday season is another great gift that everyone can enjoy. Something you can do for both cats and dogs is use pheromones, such as Feliway for cats or Adaptil for dogs to help lessen their stress at home. These products come in diffuser and spray form and don’t give off any smell to humans. This can be especially useful during the busy holiday season as visitors come and go, and as strange objects may be more present in your pet’s environment.

For cats, if another cat will be visiting your home, you can help lessen the stress and tension of a new cat by giving your cat plenty of hiding spaces and spots up high to perch on.

For dogs, make sure your dog has their own private space away from all the action at home to lessen stress and reward them for confidence around holiday objects that might spook them. See our Managing Fear Resource for tips on helping your canine build some confidence.

Keep Your Furry Companions Safe This Holiday Season

The holidays are always an exciting time of year. It’s important to make sure that your pets can also enjoy the fun by keeping an eye out for any potential hazards that can cause them (and you) to have to make a trip to the vet. By sharing some of the most common hazards with you, you have the knowledge and tools to keep your pets safe.

From the entire EHS family to you, we wish everyone a happy and safe holiday season!



For more information on holiday hazards for your pet, how to avoid them, as well as some fun ideas for DIY gifts, watch the video below. You can always check out Humane Education at Home for more ideas of treats you can make that your pet is sure to love.