Holiday Safety for Dogs

The fun of a holiday is for dogs too. In order to let your dog enjoy himself as much as possible, be sure to take safety precautions. He may not know what to make of all the extra decorations and the special meals, and his curiosity may lead him into unsafe situations. Let's look at some of the most-common holiday hazards so you can help your dog stay safe this holiday season.

Around the House

Twinkling lights, flickering candles, bright garlands and pretty ribbons all help set a festive holiday mood, but they can also harm your dog if he's allowed to chew on them. Your dog won't know that your holiday gifts or the contents of the new potpourri bowl aren't his chew toys, so be sure to supervise your pet around the holiday décor.

If your decorations include a live tree, keep your dog out of the water reservoir in the tree stand. Use only pet-safe tree conditioners, and freshen the water daily to prevent bacteria growth in the reservoir. Vacuum the needles regularly because your dog may eat them accidentally.

Holiday House Plants

About a half-dozen plants that have traditional ties to the holidays can poison a dog. They include poinsettia (mild mouth irritation and digestive upset), mistletoe (severe digestive upset, shock or death), holly (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea), ivy (vomiting, diarrhea, depression), amaryllis (diarrhea and vomiting) and hibiscus (diarrhea). Dog owners may want to opt for plant-free decorating to protect their pet's health.

At the Table

The holidays often mean special meals for the human members of the family. Your dog may beg to be included in the buffet line, but it's important to maintain his regular diet during the holidays.

Here are some of the dog-related problems associated with holiday foods:

  • Turkey: Possible pancreatitis from skin and gravy; choking or puncture hazard from bones; choking hazard from string used to contain stuffing or pop-up timer;
  • Onion: Destroys red blood cells and leads to anemia; and
  • Grapes/raisins: Contains toxin that can lead to kidney failure.

Chocolate deserves special mention because it contains theobromine, an alkaloid that dogs cannot metabolize efficiently. Signs of chocolate poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst, unsteadiness, muscle spasms or seizures. Left untreated, chocolate poisoning can lead to death from an abnormal heart rhythm.

Visitors Can Be Stressful

Although the holidays are exciting, they can also be stressful for both people and pets. Your dog may or may not join in all the holiday fun, so prepare a quiet room where he can rest and recuperate from the changes in his routine.

Explain your dog's feeding schedule to your guests and let them know what treats are appropriate for your dog. Introduce your dog to your company and supervise the first few interactions to ensure both your pet and your guests are comfortable with one another.

Make time for your dog during the holidays. Take him out for an extra walk or give him some one-on-one time while he fetches a stick or a flying disc. Both you and your dog will benefit from the time spent together, and your dog will be less likely to engage in problem behaviors, such as inappropriate elimination, if you make him feel like the important part of the family that he is.