Parties, decorations, indulgent foods—there are so many more ways for your furry friend to get in trouble this time of year. Here’s how to fend off potential problems.

By Hannah Harper
November 14, 2019

Skip the Tinsel

Yes, the sparkly stuff is pretty—but it can also be very dangerous for animals. This is especially true for cats, who are drawn to its shiny, stringlike appearance and will be tempted to chew on it. “When swallowed, tinsel can get tangled up in a cat’s intestines and become a surgical emergency,” says Angie Krause, DVM, a veterinarian in Boulder, Colorado. The safest thing to do? Skip it altogether. If pets are curious, “the most successful solution is to have a gate or a fence around the tree so they can’t get to it,” says Krause.

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Be Careful with Greenery

Like to deck your halls? Before you do, learn what plants may be harmful. Poinsettias have always gotten a bad rap, but they are usually only mildly toxic to animals—occasionally causing an upset tummy. Holly, on the other hand, can cause animals to vomit or have diarrhea if they eat a lot. And mistletoe can be even more dangerous, leading to cardiovascular issues or seizures. If you’re decorating spots your pet can reach, consider the faux kind.

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Fiona McAllister Photography/Getty Images

Maintain a Calm Vibe

Parties can be stressful for animals. Before having people over, make sure your pet has a safe space to retreat to. “You want a room that’s quiet and away from all the activity where they have their favorite toys, food, and water,” says Travis Arndt, medical director of the Humane Society of Missouri’s Animal Medical Center of Mid-America in St. Louis. And even if your dog is good with people, keep her tucked away during arrivals—constant doorbell ringing can be overwhelming for even the chillest pooch. Later, you can bring your pup out to meet guests.

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Think Twice About Human Treats

A pair of puppy-dog eyes can make it tough to resist sharing table food—but it’s best to avoid feeding furry friends the rich, indulgent foods so common during the holidays. Chocolate can cause dogs to have seizures, fatty foods can wreak digestive havoc, and yeast in dough can cause extreme bloating. But really, “anything out of your pet’s ordinary diet can cause vomiting or diarrhea,” warns Arndt. Having guests over for a meal? Politely remind them not to sneak your pets bites.

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