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Holiday Pet Safety Tips

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family and dog enjoying the snow with a snowman

There are often lots of people, food, decorations, and general commotion during a holiday, making it harder to keep your dog or cat safe and sound. We’ve got you covered with this holiday pet safety list of common pet hazards that take you all the way from Halloween to New Year’s!


It can be fun to get a little scared on Halloween, but it’s certainly no fun to see your pet have a scary mishap. Be sure to watch out for these potential dangers.


Keep a sharp eye on your pet as you open the door for trick-or-treaters. It’s easy to get distracted as you check out those cute, silly, or spooky creatures and hand out candy, which gives your pet a chance to dart outside. Once outside, your poor pet could get lost or hurt.

An even better idea is to put your pet in a quiet and cozy room with a treat-filled toy to keep them busy during prime trick-or-treating hours. You should also make sure your pets have their collars with tags on and consider microchipping them to help ensure a safe homecoming in case they ever get lost.

small dog dressed as a witch on a walk

Halloween Candy

Chocolate is a big no-no for pets and can cause stomach upset, including vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, seizures, and even death depending on how much is ingested (see how much is too much). Gum or candies sweetened with Xylitol are also toxic and should be kept out of paw’s reach.

If you have trick-or-treaters of your own, make sure they don’t come home and toss their bags of loot somewhere a curious pet could get at them. And be sure to keep the candy you hand out somewhere safe—not in a big bowl on the floor near the door.


Some decorations, like candles, are dangerous for obvious reasons, but there are other potentially hazardous Halloween items you might not have thought about. For instance, fake cobwebs can be a fun way to make your mantle spooky, but your pet can get tangled in them or try to eat them—possibly resulting in an emergency visit to the veterinarian. Also, watch out for creepy little toys, like rubber eyeballs or plastic spiders that your pet can choke on or swallow.

Glow Sticks

While the substance inside glow sticks, necklaces, and bracelets isn’t toxic, it tastes really bad. If your pet chews through one and gets that icky stuff on their tongue, they might get upset and try to hide or run away. This can be a scary situation for you and your four-legged friend! Your pet might also salivate excessively and have a hard time getting the taste out of their mouth.


Pumpkins are non-toxic, so noshing on a small bit won’t harm your pet. However, your pet could get a bad stomachache if they eat too much. It’s better to be safe and place pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns somewhere your pet can’t get at them. Also, please use battery-powered “candles” in jack-o-lanterns rather than lit candles to help avoid accidents.


Costumes can be stressful for pets, and our strategic partner The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®) recommends not putting one on your pet unless you’re sure they love it. If you do dress up your pet, make sure the costume is comfortable and doesn’t impede your pet’s ability to move, breathe, bark, or meow normally. In addition, you should check for small pieces that could come off and become a choking hazard.

dog nibbling leftover food from under the table


There’s a cornucopia of harmful foods and food-related problems that can come up for your pet around turkey day.

Harmful Foods

Thanksgiving is a time for feasting, but watch out that your pet doesn’t get into any harmful foods. For instance, fatty foods, garlic, onions, grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, and yeast dough can all cause problems for your pet. Spoiled foods are troublesome, too, so secure the lids of your garbage cans to help prevent nosey pets from getting into them.

Real Bones

You should never feed your pets turkey, chicken, or other real bones no matter how hard they beg. These bones can splinter easily and injure the soft tissues of the mouth or cause serious internal damage if swallowed. If your pet loves bones, purchase a safe bone-shaped treat from your local pet store for them to chew on after dinner.

Hot Containers

Your dog or cat will probably be curious when they smell something yummy cooking. Keep an eye on hot containers so your pet doesn’t tip them over and get burned or eat something that could be toxic.​


Have a happy Hanukkah by keeping your pet safe from these potentially harmful objects.

Menorah Candles

Keep a close eye on your pet around the Menorah when it’s lit. You might even want to put your pet safely in another room when you light the candles. You don't want them rubbing against the Menorah and getting burned or knocking it over and starting a fire.


Playing with a dreidel is a fun tradition, but small dreidels can be a choking hazard for pets. Make sure you put them away safely when the game is over.

black and white cat with a santa hate


From festive decorations to joyous parties, there’s a lot to enjoy during Christmas, but there’s also a lot of ways your pet can get hurt.

Holiday Plants

No kisses under the mistletoe with your pet, please! Mistletoe and other common holiday plants, such as Christmas Roses and holly, are toxic to dogs and cats. It’s safest to deck the halls with artificial silk or plastic plants. See our list of toxic plants for cats or refer to the ASPCA’s extensive lists for dogs and cats.

Gift Wrapping

Presents look festive under the tree, but ribbons, bows, and wrapping paper can spell trouble for your pet. If your pet gets at them, they could choke on or swallow them, which can cause internal damage or an intestinal blockage. Remember that the stuff packed inside those gifts can be harmful too. For instance, pets can choke on Styrofoam peanuts or shredded packing paper.

Christmas Trees

While holiday trees can brighten up the holidays, they can also pose a danger to your pet. So what should you do? 

Start by making sure your tree is stable and can’t get knocked over by a curious cat or inquisitive canine. In addition, keep your pet from drinking tree water, because it can contain harmful bacteria or fertilizing chemicals. And avoid using tinsel, which can be swallowed or choked on. Tinsel is especially tempting for cats who may try to play with it and take the whole tree down instead.

Wires and Lights

Hide, tape down, or otherwise secure all wires and light strands, so your pet can’t trip over, get caught in, or chew on them. My dog Lady chewed through a wire once, and it was awfully frightening for the both of us! I rushed her to the emergency clinic, and she thankfully made a full recovery.


These can look like harmless toys to cats and dogs, but they can be very harmful, especially if they get into your pet’s mouth. Clean up any broken ornaments as soon as possible to help keep your pet from stepping on or eating any of the pieces. Also, watch out for the hooks used to hang ornaments and other decorations. They can injure your pet’s mouth and lead to internal injuries if swallowed.

Christmas Treats

There can be lots of goodies around during Christmas that aren’t so good for your pet. For instance, chocolate desserts, brownies, and treats sweetened with Xylitol are all harmful to your pet. See this list of 16 Things Never to Feed Your Dog for more on troublesome foods.

Christmas Parties

Holiday parties can be loud events with a lot of people coming in and out of the house. Consider setting up a quiet and out of the way space for your pet to retreat, especially if they’re not big on socializing. If you’re the host, you might want to ask a trusted friend or family member to keep an eye on your pet, so you can focus on your guests without worrying about your four-legged friend’s comfort or safety.


Like other holidays, Kwanzaa is a time for family gatherings when you may need to keep a closer eye on your pet, especially around the kinara.

Candles in the Kinara

If you light candles in the kinara as part of your Kwanzaa celebrations, be careful if there are pets around. Make sure they can’t knock the kinara over and get burned or cause a fire.

New Year’s Eve

Nobody wants to spend New Year’s Eve at an emergency animal hospital, so watch your pet around these potential hazards.


Balloons make great decorations, but they don’t make good toys for pets. Pets can get hurt or scared if they pop, and possibly choke on or swallow the pieces. Balloon ribbons can also be a problem, particularly for cats who tend to enjoy chasing them down and chewing on them. If they swallow bits of ribbon, they can suffer from vomiting or intestinal blockages.

Loud Noises

New Year’s Eve can be a pretty loud holiday with noisemakers, music, and other sounds of celebration. Unfortunately, loud noises can frighten pets and cause them to run off or hide. You might want to put your pet in a quiet room during the festivities, especially when it’s time for the big countdown to begin.​

happy jack russell terrier in a cone of shame

How to Prepare for a Holiday Emergency

While you can’t always protect your pet from holiday mishaps, there are a few things you can do to prepare for them. For instance:

  • Ask your veterinary practice about their hours over the holiday season and who you should contact if they’re closed when your pet gets hurt or sick.
  • Add the number for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) to your cell phone or phone book. You can call them at 1-888-426-4435 24/7, 365 days a year, to help in case of a pet poison emergency. A $95 consultation fee may apply, but a portion is covered if you have an ASPCA Pet Health Insurance plan.
  • Keep a pet first-aid kit handy with items like gauze pads, cotton balls, and adhesive tape. You can stock yours up with help from our pet first-aid kit checklist.

The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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