Pet-Proofing Your Home for the Holidays

The holidays are a busy, sometimes stressful, and festive time of year. For pet-owning homes, rich, home-cooked meals, sparkling decorations, and newly-wrapped gifts might seem like accidents waiting to happen. This is especially true with pets that are highly inquisitive and notorious for poking their noses in places they don’t belong! If you’re not sure which foods are harmful for pets and which decorations and other holiday-related items are liable to lead to accidents, please see the information below.

Items to Avoid/Use Sparingly


Dogs and cats do not metabolize nutrients the way that we do, and certain foods just don’t agree with them. In a worst case scenario, some foods can even be fatal. Here’s what to watch out for when you’re doing your holiday grocery shopping:

  • Garlic, onions, chives, leeks, and other members of the allium family are very harmful for dogs and cats, regardless of what form they come in. Onion powder is a key ingredient in many dishes, too. Ingesting any of these in a large enough quantity can cause a condition known as hemolytic anemia, which involves the destruction of the red blood cells.
  • Grapes, raisins, and currants can cause acute kidney failure in animals.
  • Chocolate in any form can be dangerous as well. It contains theobromine, which is similar to caffeine and can cause dysfunction of the central nervous system and cardiac arrhythmias.
  • Ingesting uncooked bread dough containing yeast can cause the stomach to dilate and even lead to respiratory issues.
  • Ingestion of macadamia nuts can result in vomiting, weakness, and depression.
  • Xylitol is a sugar substitute commonly used in sugar-free products like candy, gum, and various baked goods. Ingesting foods containing xylitol can cause hypoglycemia, or even liver failure (though this is rare).

Decorations and Plants

Holiday decorations can make enticing playthings for dogs and cats. To avoid any accidents or emergencies, take care with these items:

  • The Christmas tree: Yes, your tree can be an unwilling target in your pet’s quest for adventure. We recommend placing your tree in a corner if possible, where it’s less likely to get knocked over. Additionally, the needles, sap, and tree water can all be very harmful if ingested. Clean up any needles on the floor and make sure the tree water is well covered.
  • Tinsel, garland, ribbon, and twine: All of these items can be major choking hazards for your pet. They can also accidentally get wound around things or cause intestinal damage if swallowed. Consider avoiding the use of tinsel altogether, and if you see ribbon or string on the floor, pick it up!
  • Lights: Strands of lights are the perfect way to brighten up your home, but the cords can be a problem if they’re sitting in high-traffic areas and your pet is a known chewer.
  • Candles: Candles are an obvious fire hazard and for optimal safety, you should use artificial candles instead.
  • Essential oils: Tea tree, peppermint, cinnamon, pine, lavender, and citrus oils can all be toxic for your pet.
  • Holly, mistletoe, and Jerusalem cherry: Ingesting any of these plants can cause GI problems including vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
Cat and dog under a plaid blanket: Holiday Pet Safety in Carmel