Holiday Dog Hazards: How to Keep Your Dog Safe

keep your dog safe - jack russel terrier looking up at christmas treeHoliday decorating is a yuletide tradition, and with good reason! Unboxing the figurines, breaking out the garland, and hanging the ornaments is a fun family activity. Decorating and planning all the merriment brings families closer as they start feeling the Christmas cheer. But, it’s important to keep your dog safe during this time.

When you have furry family members, it can be a tricky time. You never know what they might chew, tackle, or eat. To help everyone enjoy the holidays, here are some basic tips on how to keep your dog safe during the holidays:

1. Hang Plants High

Playful pooches can get into anything, especially if it’s low enough to the ground. When picking up decorative plants for the holidays, remember that some can be dangerous for your dog.

For example, Phoradendron flavescens – better known as Mistletoe – is toxic to your dog! Sneaking a kiss under the Mistletoe may be common during the holidays and a hit with your guests, but even one or two berries from this plant can be fatal to dogs of any age.

Although it is customary to hang mistletoe up high and out of reach, pups are vulnerable in the moments right before hanging it and just after taking it down. To be safe, it may be better to go with an artificial or plastic version of this common holiday decoration.

Some other examples of classic, but toxic, holiday plants for dogs include Poinsettias, Holly, and Fir trees. That’s right – the main event itself, the Christmas tree, is toxic to dogs. To keep pups safe over the holidays, consider opting for an alternate species of tree or going with an artificial version of these holiday plants.

2. Protect the Base of Your Christmas Tree

If you do decide to go with a live tree, there is more to worry about than whether the tree is Fir. You also need to protect the base of your Christmas tree. Your Christmas tree will usually be fine with just water in the base. If you’re using plain water, your dog will be fine.

However, many people use a preserving solution and mix it into the water in the base of the tree. Although it does a great job of keeping your tree pretty and vividly green, the mixture can harm your dog if it is ingested. If you’re using anything other than plain water for your tree, make sure the base is covered and protected so your dog cannot get to it.

3. Avoid Breakable Eatables

Shiny tinsel, novelty chain lights, and delicate ornaments are staples for holiday decorations in many homes. To help keep your pup safe, it’s best to avoid these if possible. Or, at the very least, put them out of reach.

These three decorations are some of the most likely to catch a dog’s eye, and worse yet, a dog’s mouth. Dogs go for tinsel because it’s light and shiny. It seems like the perfect plaything, but can easily cause intestinal duress when ingested. When dogs nibble on chain lights and glass ornaments, they may shatter. Bits and pieces of plastic and glass can wreak havoc on a dog’s system.

To keep pups safe, you can train them to ignore these decorations or place them out of reach. Then, be on the lookout for any digestion issues! Alternatively, you can avoid the decorations altogether.

4. Be Cautious of Lit Candles And Open Flames

Candles in window sills and a crackling fireplace are elements of classic Christmas ambiance. If you typically only use candles or a fireplace seasonally, they can be a new and exciting experience for dogs. They’ll want to investigate, and that can mean trouble.

To negate the danger, candles should be kept up high. Having them out of your dog’s range will prevent accidental nose burns, tail swipes, and fire hazards. You can also avoid the potential danger by using fake candles instead. If you have an open fireplace, consider installing a fire-proof gate directly in front. Doing so means you can still roast chestnuts without putting your pup in danger.

5. Avoid Too Many Table Scraps and Harmful Foods

Those sad puppy eyes and cute face are sometimes too much to resist. It may be tempting to give your dog a lot of table scraps during the holidays. Although this may make for a happy pup at the moment, all of those rich holiday foods can cause a lot of issues.

Plus, many human foods and seasonings common to the holidays are toxic foods for dogs, like onion, garlic, raisins, grapes, coffee, tea, and more. Even if it’s human food that isn’t harmful to your dog, too much or a sudden increase over what they normally have can cause anything from upset stomachs, vomiting, and diarrhea to something more serious like pancreatitis.

Beware of Xylitol and Chocolate

It’s also tempting to keep some sugar-free options around for the holidays and is necessary for people living with diabetes. But, the xylitol commonly found in sugar-free candies and other foods is poisonous to your dog. So, if you have to have it around, make sure it’s in a tightly-sealed container and kept well out of reach from your dog.

Chocolate is another food item that is hazardous to your dog and is also common during the holidays. This delicious human treat results in upset stomachs, diarrhea, vomiting, and can also be fatal. Results may vary across dogs, but small dog breeds are especially at risk.

A large dog may be able to ingest some chocolate by accident and end up with a stomach ache or diarrhea while it may prove fatal for a smaller dog. Because it’s such a risk, it’s best to keep chocolate stored out of reach from your pet and in a secure container instead of the bag.

6. Stay Aware of Stress Levels

Holidays can be a stressful time for us as we rush around to clean, decorate, make food, and more. It’s important to remember that the holidays can be a stressful time for dogs as well.

Not only will your dog tune-in to your moods and may become more stressed by association, but they also can get overwhelmed by having a lot of extra people around. In addition to preparing your dog for holiday guests, there are other things you can do to help them handle the stress.

Keep an eye on your dog and stay aware of their stress levels during the holidays. Try to keep them as close to their normal routine as possible, spend some extra time playing with them and reassuring them, and make sure they have a safe space to escape to where they will be left alone in case they need a break. Doing these things can help you and your dog keep a level head during the holidays.

The holidays can hold many hazards for curious pups. With these tips, you can keep your dog safe during the holidays.