7 Safety Tips for Your
Pet This Holiday Season
by Jesse Sposato  |  November 14, 2013

As the holidays draw near, there's so much to look forward to: spending time with family, gift giving, cooking traditional meals and all-around celebrating! But, let's face it, the holidays can also be a bit chaotic at times. Unfortunately, one of the things that can get lost in the shuffle during the winter months is our pets. "While the holiday season is festive for humans, it can be dangerous for our pets," says Dr. Kristen Frank, staff internist at the ASPCA Animal Hospital. She adds, "An increased number of pets are seen during the time between Halloween and Easter for illnesses such as chocolate ingestion, foreign bodies from eating items such as tinsel or ribbons, and pancreatitis or gastroenteritis from eating rich human food." The good news? If the right precautions are taken, you should be able to skip that emergency visit to the vet and enjoy your holidays with healthy pet in tow. Read below for tips what to steer clear of.

Plants Poinsettias get a pretty bad rap, and it's true, they may cause mouth irritation or stomach upset in pets. But they're nothing compared to lilies, which are very toxic, especially for cats. They can cause kidney failure, and even death. If someone brings you a bouquet containing lilies, make sure they're far out of your pets' reach or bring them into your workplace instead of keeping them at home. If you plan to give a gift to a home brewing fan, watch out for any dried hops in brewing kits. Hops is a plant that is toxic to dogs and rarely, cats.

Visitors The arrival of holiday guests, whether for the day or the weekend, often brings along with it foreign objects. This increases the chances of your pet ingesting something they shouldn't, such as medication or mints or gum containing Xylitol, an artificial sweetener toxic to pets. To avoid a disaster, ask your guests to keep the guest room door closed and items like purses up high and zipped.

Food Most people know that chocolate is not a pet's best friend, but did you know that the darker and richer the chocolate, the worse it is for a pet? Other popular holiday foods to avoid are raisins, macadamia nuts, cherries (which may contain pits), onions and garlic.

If the right precautions are taken, you should be able to skip that emergency visit to the vet

Christmas Tree Water Often one of the first things people do when they get their Christmas tree home is add artificial (and toxic) preservatives to the water at the base of the tree. If you have pets, stick to plain tap water.

Christmas Tree Decorations Avoid hanging tinsel or strands of popcorn from your tree, as pets will want to eat and play with it. And when hanging ornaments, save the more delicate ones for up top, and the pet-friendlier decorations for the lower portion of the tree.

Garbage Pets are not garbage disposals! This is always true, but it's even more important when there are loads of fatty meat scraps and turkey bones in your leftovers. Fatty foods can cause pancreatitis, and bones can splinter and lodge in your pet's throat. Instill a family rule against feeding pets table scraps, and take garbage with food in it out right away.

Emergencies Keep a list of important numbers on your fridge including the closest emergency vet clinic and an animal poison control hotline.