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Holiday Pet Safety Tips

This article originally appeared on my ongoing series of articles for Flexcin International, Inc as Holiday Pet Safety Tips


Have you ever placed the last ornament on your tree, gazing admiringly at your work, only to realize Fido is running full speed ahead at your masterpiece? Or what about looking over to see Fluffy engulfed in menorah flames? Hopefully, neither of these situations has ever happened to you, but keep in mind that many of your favorite decorations can pose serious dangers for the animals in your home.

Here is a list of the top offending holiday decorations and the harm they can cause your pets:


Some pets are attracted to the aroma of scented candles (cinnamon, fig, vanilla – yum!) and may be drawn to the flame (like a moth).  If lit candles are ingested, hot wax will burn the mouth and tongue and the waxy nature of candles can cause digestive tract upset. If a pet knocks over a candle, flammable household materials and/or their fur could ignite.


Strings of electric lights pose temptation to many pets, especially cats.  Severe oral burns and life threatening shock will occur from electrical cord bites.  Additionally, a pet’s limb or neck can be caught in a string of lights, causing a tourniquet effect on the limb or strangulation of the neck.


Consumption of garland or tinsel is especially treacherous for pets. Both can cause a linear foreign body, with one end of the strand anchored higher in the stomach or intestines and the free end traveling down the digestive tract.  The intestines will continually contract (peristalsis) and bunch up around the length of the strand, causing reduced blood flow and a “sawing effect” on the inside of the intestines.  Ultimately, this can lead to intestinal perforation.

Festive Plants

A variety of plants are associated with the winter holiday season, some toxic and others not.  Even if a plant is considered non-toxic, its ingestion could still make your pet sick.

Toxic to Cats & Dogs

  • Amaryllis
  • Holly
  • House Pine
  • Mistletoe (American or European)

Not Toxic to Cats & Dogs

  • Poinsettia
  • Christmas Cactus

Prioritize Pet Safety in Your Holiday Planning

Of course I’m not suggesting you be a Grinch and avoid holiday decorating, nor would I ever suggest leaving your animal friends out of the festivities. What I will suggest is you keep your pets safety in mind with these tips:

  • Only permit entry in rooms containing decorations in your presence.
  • Train your pets to avoid decor by using positive reinforcement. Divert their attention using pet-appropriate food treats or an exciting toy.
  • Use flameless candles.
  • Bind together strands of electric cords and apply a few sprays of a deterrent (Bitter Apple, vinegar, etc.).
  • If a guest brings a holiday plant into your home, inquire about its toxic potential by visiting theAPSCA Animal Poison Control.


Thank you for reading this article.  Your questions and comments are completely welcome (I’ll respond).

Please feel free to communicate with me through Twitter (@PatrickMahaney) and follow my adventures in veterinary medicine by liking Patrick Mahaney: Veterinarian Acupuncture Pain Management for Your Pets on Facebook.

Copyright of this article (2012) is owned by Dr Patrick Mahaney, Veterinarian and Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist. Republishing any portion of this article must first be authorized by Dr Patrick Mahaney. Requests for republishing must be approved by Dr Patrick Mahaney and received in written format.

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