Tips for Keeping Pets Safe During the Holidays from OVC

December 22, 2008 - News Release

The halls are decked, the tree trimmed, everyone's busy being jolly and the kids are wondering what the heck are sugar plums anyway. Then along comes Rover, scarfing down the contents of an open box of chocolates (leaving behind only the orange-nougat-marzipan-filled kind that nobody likes) before chasing the fluffy new kitten up the tree and getting tangled in the lights.

The season of giving is full of fun and excitement for everyone but the holidays are also a perilous time for the family pet. The Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) at the University of Guelph reminds animal owners that prevention is the best medicine at this time of year. In a video produced for the OVC’s YouTube channel, Profs. Paul Woods and Andrew Peregrine discuss some of the more common household hazards of the season.

A few simple precautions over the holidays can help keep your furry friends out of harm’s way by, including:

Hide the Chocolate
A tasty indulgence for humans, chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, can cause serious illness in dogs. Woods says keep chocolate away from your pets and stick to their regular diet. Avoid giving them any unusual holiday treats or drinks that might cause upset stomachs or worse.

Mind the Plants
While not as toxic as urban myths suggest, the sap of this ubiquitous perennial could cause problems for pets that lick or eat the leaves. Toxic holiday plants to really watch out for are lilies, holly and mistletoe. Even pine needles from the tree could cause an injury if ingested, and don’t let your pet drink the tree’s water: it may contain pesticide residues and unfriendly bacteria may form inside tree stand.

Tinsel and Cats Don't Mix
Shiny, dangly things have an irresistible allure for many cats and dogs. Tinsel and other ornaments can cause serious problems if swallowed while a bit of innocent chewing on the lights or electrical cords can have shocking results. When decorating, avoid using tinsel and place the small or breakable ornaments higher up out of your pet’s reach. Try not to leave your pet unsupervised and be sure the tree is anchored securely to the wall or ceiling.

Be Careful with Antifreeze
A little antifreeze spilled on the garage floor on driveway can have lethal consequences for your pet as well as other critters in the neighbourhood. Take extra care when winterizing your vehicle and immediately clean up any spills.

A Fur Coat isn't Always Enough
Your pet may love the outdoors but even the furriest dogs and cats can suffer frostbite and hypothermia when they’re wet and cold. Make sure your pet has a sheltered spot in the yard that offers some protection from the elements. If necessary, shorten your walk with the dog. And bring pets indoors when the thermometer plummets and the night’s not fit for man nor beast.

Resist the Urge to Give Pets as Gifts
Your loved ones may think they want a pet desperately, but Christmas is not the best time to bring a new kitten or puppy or other creature into the house. A pet of any kind is a long-term commitment and a major responsibility. Parents should keep in mind that in all likelihood they’ll end up doing most of the work, and in the busy Christmas season family members may not have the time to focus on the additional needs of a new pet.

Instead, discuss the subject with your family and give it careful thought over the holidays. Then, when things are back to normal in the New Year, consider visiting your local animal shelter and adopting a pet in need of a warm, loving home.

For more information, watch Holiday Talk with Your Vet.

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338/, or Barry Gunn, Ext. 56982/

University of Guelph
50 Stone Road East
Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1