With the holidays around the corner, make sure your pets keep their paws off some of these dangerous holiday items. (Photo: iStock)
With the holidays around the corner, make sure your pets keep their paws off some of these dangerous holiday items. (Photo: iStock)

As much as we love our pets, we do our best to protect them from danger all year long — and around the holidays there are special circumstances that put them at risk.

Many of these are obvious, but others are not — and that’s not even considering the anguish of watching a beloved pet suffer.

In addition, the challenge of paying for expensive vet care to put right something that could have been avoided to begin with is no way to spend the holidays.

Nationwide’s Hambone Award represents the most unusual pet mishaps and the incredible recoveries that follow, thanks to pet insurance.

Bellevue, Washington-based Healthy Paws Pet Insurance said that it processed 5,100 stomach-related claims for the 2015 holiday season, reimbursing an average of $703 per incident for foreign body removal, the accidental swallowing of an object not meant to be consumed.

Unique holiday hazards

Loving our pets means watching out for them and keeping them from falling prey to the unique hazards that surround us during the holidays. And those dangers can take many forms, surfacing sometimes where you least expect them.

Healthy Paws and St. Charles, Missouri-based pet food company Royal Canin USA both issued alerts about the dangers to be found under the surface of joyous holiday celebrations, to help pet parents be on the alert so that their companion animals stay safe and happy while still being part of the fun.

As might be expected, unexpected dangers are just that — unexpected — and whether they come in the guise of food, guests or unfamiliar objects, pet parents must be on the alert for threats to their furry, finned or feathered companions’ well-being.

Here’s a look at 10 of the things pet parents have to watch out for this holiday season:


“Just one bite, pretty please!” (Photo: iStock)

10. Toxic foods

Aside from the tummy upsets to be had from guests sneaking Fido too many treats under the table or Fluffy stealing off with a choice morsel from the kitchen counter, foods that can actually poison your pet are more common around the holidays.

Beware chocolate, particularly dark chocolate; unbaked bread dough; macadamia nuts; turkey; alcohol; fruit cake; raisins; sugar-free candy; and baked goods that include artificial sweeteners.

Pets with Christmas lights

                                                              “How did these lights get so tangled?” (Photo: iStock)

9. Hazardous decorations

Even full-grown dogs and cats can be prone to the dangers presented by Thanksgiving and Yule decorations, with puppies and kittens that much more so. Cats may be tempted to climb the Christmas tree or sample the poinsettia, holly or mistletoe, while dogs — puppies, particularly — may be curious enough to chew on anything from ornaments to plugged-in holiday lights.

Tinsel and pine needles can be deadly, too, as can water drunk from the tree stand. Make sure pets are kept away from decorations that can prove too tempting, and provide them plenty of fresh safe drinking water located far from the tree.

Lost dog

                              Make sure guests close doors behind them so Fido can be home for the holidays. (Photo: iStock)

8. Guest appearances

No matter how much you love your relatives, sometimes they just aren’t pet people — or, conversely, they love them too much. Beware of small (screaming) children who can traumatize pets (and who can get knocked down or bitten if they push pets too far, which will also cause problems with their parents), and people who insist on feeding pets unsuitable treats, or too many treats, or empty the fish food container into the aquarium. And then of course there’s Uncle Rick, who thinks it’s funny to slip your dog a Scotch.

Not to mention that a constant stream of foot traffic in and out of the house can upset pets used to a quiet household. They might even take flight through one of the frequently-opening doors, which could lead to disaster — they could freeze, be hit by a car or get thoroughly lost. If your pet isn’t microchipped, you should give consider having it done before the holidays are much farther advanced.

Dog with chocolates

                                                  “I hope mom wasn’t saving these for a special occasion.” (Photo: iStock)

7. Guests’ possessions

Think prescription drugs and personal care products brought by overnight guests — not to mention that secret stash of snacks or potent potables in Cousin George’s luggage.

Make sure the luggage, the secret stash, the medications and the drinks are safely protected from pet predations, lest the joyful holiday become a tragedy.


                                                                        “Ugh, is it almost quiet time?” (Photo: iStock)

6. Upsets to the routine

Sensitive pets can be prone to tummy upsets if there’s too much commotion or too many unfamiliar people and things in their environment. That can lead to vomiting, diarrhea or just general mopiness — not something you want them to suffer through.

If Fido isn’t himself, consider a vet visit to see what’s wrong; there are so many opportunities for trouble around the holidays that it’s better to be safe than sorry. Better, make sure pets are sequestered in a quiet room if they’re easily upset, and if they are crate-trained, all the better.

Cat under Christmas tree

                                             “Can we open just one before Santa comes to town?” (Photo: iStock)

6. Unwelcome gifts

Pets can be curious about wrapped and unwrapped presents, and some can be deadly — like unattended boxes of chocolate left within reach.

Other hazards are toys (not pet toys) that can be chewed into small sharp pieces; batteries that can be swallowed; and irate relatives discovering a destroyed pair of sheepskin slippers or a hole in Aunt Agatha’s prize quilt. And then there’s the wrapping, and the ribbon; any of these can pose a real threat to a pet’s health, up to and including surgery to remove foreign bodies from little tummies.

Dog near Christmas tree

                                                 “Ah, I love the smell of fresh pine on Christmas morning.” (Photo: iStock)

4. Falling trees

If your cat is inclined to climb, make sure you anchor the Christmas tree so it can’t overbalance if Fluffy decides to view the festivities from the treetop. A falling holiday tree, whether fully decorated or just brought into the house, can present deadly danger to pets — whether to the cat who climbs it or the dog who thought the tree skirt was a nice place to nap.


Cat with child at Christmas

                                                                           “Don’t take my hat, human.” (Photo: iStock)

3. Candles and fireplaces

Pets, and guests, can knock over burning candles or fireplace screens, and pets who are overcurious or fleeing over-excitable children could be seriously injured in their quest to escape.

Be sure that open flames of any kind are shielded from pets, so that there are no disasters to mar the celebration.


Dog with toy

                                                                            “But I want THIS toy!” (Photo: iStock)

2. Automated toys

If your house is filled with youngsters trying out everything from drones to radio-controlled cars, make sure pets are shut away from the action lest the youngsters lose control of their automated entertainments and pets be the ones to suffer.

Cat with food

                                                                                “A special holiday feast, just for me?” (Photo: iStock)

1. New cookware

As odd as it may sound, if you keep pet birds and you got new cookware for the holidays, don’t use those new pots and pans without opening all the windows and degassing them.

Some nonstick pots and pans give off gases when first used that can kill pet birds. You don’t want your canaries or budgies succumbing to the fumes of that fancy new cookware set just because you were in a hurry to use them.


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