Healthspan November 17, 2017

Christmas is a joyous time for all the family, including pets of course. However creating a safe festive environment is vital for our four-legged friends’ wellbeing. In the countdown, here are 12 dangers of Christmas…

1. The Christmas tree

The centrepiece of any home at Christmas, the tree can be one of the biggest hazards to pets. The water that the tree sits in can be harmful to pets and the sharp needles that drop can become lodged in paws or accidently ingested causing discomfort and stomach upsets. Heavy or glass decorations can also cause harm to curious cats and dogs.

Keep it small and place on a high stand away from prying paws. Try tying the top of the tree to something so it’s not as easy to tip over. Around the tree place aluminium foil or bubble wrap to deter inquisitive pets who won’t like the surface under their paws and remember to vacuum up dropped needles daily.

2. Plants

At Christmas time, it’s tempting to deck the halls with holly, mistletoe and poinsettias however these can all pose a threat to unwitting pets. Holly and mistletoe in particular can be toxic whereas poinsettias, although not particularly toxic, may cause upsets.

If you still want to use these plants, opt for artificial versions but keep them out of reach.

3. Potpourri

Talking of artificial plants, this is one to avoid, particularly the liquid kind that can cause corrosive burns when licked as well as vomiting, dehydration and, in severe cases, organ damage. They may make your house smell nice at Christmas but they can cause serious harm to unbeknownst pets.

4. Wrapping

Much of the fun of Christmas is in the unwrapping of gifts but whilst these mounds of tape, ribbon, bows, bells and glitter may symbolise excitement for humans and animals alike, they can also risk your pets’ health. Ingesting any of these wrapping devices may cause serious damage to their intestines or pose a choking hazard so it’s best to stick to simple paper and quickly scoop up the remnants.

Let your pet have some fun with wrapping paper, perhaps they can unwrap their own gift, but keep an eye on stray string or ribbons.

5. Ornaments

Delicate glass or ceramic decorations may adorn many homes this winter but their fragile nature could cause problems for exploring cats and tail-wagging dogs. If smashed, glass splinters can irritate paws, leading to infection or worse still, if ingested, can serious damage to internal organs.

Opt for more pet friendly decorations such as origami ornaments or felt baubles which make excellent play things for cats.

6. Lights

Lighting up your home to rival the Blackpool Illuminations may seem like a great idea but for pets all these twinkly, coloured bulbs can be a disorientating, frightening experience.

Stick to simple, one colour lights that don’t flash and conceal any low hanging wires. Battery-powered lights may be a safer option for pets prone to chewing through electrical wires.

7. Food

Most pet parents are clued up on what they can and can’t feed their feline and canine companions however during the festive period it can be hard to monitor. Additionally, according to recent research 5.5 million UK dog owners unknowingly feed their pets harmful food at Christmas¹. With extra people around, busy meal times and cramped rooms, food and drinks can often get spilt or relatives could unwittingly slip your pet harmful human food.

Steer pets away from chocolate, cakes, macadamia nuts, bones and the fatty cuts of meat. Drinks such as alcohol and fizzy drinks can also result in vomiting, diarrhoea and excessive panting. Try to keep the kitchen door closed whenever possible and warn guests not to feed pets any human food without your permission. Don’t let pets miss out though, stock up on their favourite treats and hide them in new toys.

8. Fire

Filling your home with festive aromas is a great way to get into the Christmas spirit but candles can be dangerous for dogs and, particularly, cats who tend to jump up onto surfaces where these are placed. Candles can lead to singed paws, tails and whiskers and also be a fire hazard if knocked over.

Avoid lighting real candles over the festive period or use battery-lit ones instead. Remember to also take care with pets around the fireplace, use a fireguard and never leave them in the room unattended.

9. Children’s toys

If you have children or grandchildren, no doubt you’ll be familiar with the mountains of new toys unveiled on Christmas Day. Small plastic toys, those filled with beans or ones with sequins and glitter can all be choking hazards for playful pups and cats.

Encourage children to play with these toys away from pets and double check no small parts have fallen off in the unwrapping process. It’s also a nice idea to distract pets with their own toys, invest in some new puzzle to hide food in or squeaky toys to play with.

10. Silica gel

Silica gel is found in small sachets in many typical Christmas gifts including bags, purses and shoe boxes and although not toxic can cause blockages if ingested.

Ensure the packets are thrown away immediately before pets can get their claws or teeth into them.

11. Noise

Pets can become anxious when it comes to new and unfamiliar sounds and Christmas is prime time for music-playing, noisy games and champagne popping.

If you know your pet is particularly sensitive to strange, loud noises make sure you do your crackers, party poppers and prosecco opening in another room. In terms of the hum of music and noisy guests, consider a calming supplement for your dog to feel less anxious and stressed.

12. Too many people

Cats and dogs may recognise the smells and sounds of some of your relatives and friends but sometimes it can be overwhelming when everyone is in the same room.

Ensure pets have a few safe and comfortable places to get away from all the commotion. Where possible leave doors open throughout the house so pets can get away if they want to. Additionally move litter trays or food bowls if these will be in busy areas over the festive period.

Creating the perfect safe haven for your pet will mean that they can enjoy the festivities as much as you just remember to shower them your usual love and affection in between all that eating, drinking and playing games.



Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn't possible, supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.



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