It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and as you decorate your home and buy your Christmas gifts, take time to ensure your pet is safe from holiday dangers. Our team at Town & Country Animal Hospital wants to help you safeguard your pet by providing some Christmas safety tips.

#1: Don’t leave your pet outside in the cold

Christmastime brings a chill to the air, and pets should not be left unattended in cold weather. Small dogs, short-haired dogs, puppies, and senior dogs are at the highest risk for developing problems, including:

  • Frostbite — Tissue damage caused by extreme cold is termed frostbite. When temperatures fall below freezing, your pet’s blood is redirected away from their extremities toward their vital organs. Areas such as their tail, ears, nose, and paws will experience decreased circulation, which can cause tissue damage. Signs include swelling, discoloration, blisters, or pain in the affected area.
  • Hypothermia — Hypothermia occurs when your pet’s core body temperature drops too low. Mild hypothermia begins to set in when their temperature drops below 99 degrees. If not addressed, hypothermia can lead to cardiac and respiratory failure, brain damage, coma, and death. Signs include sluggishness, depression, and rapid breathing, followed by progressively slower and shallower breathing, dilated pupils, and unconsciousness.

#2: Protect your pet from your Christmas tree

Christmas wouldn’t be the same without a decorated tree, but this beautiful evergreen poses several hazards for your pet.

  • Unstable tree — If your tree is not secured appropriately, it could fall when your pet investigates the new addition to their environment, which could result in injury. Ensure you use a sturdy tree stand and tightly secure the tree’s base, and, for further stability, tie the tree top or sides to a hook in the ceiling or an adjacent wall. Placing your tree in a corner also helps provide stability.
  • Ornaments — Plastic or glass ornaments can shatter, leaving behind shards that can damage your pet’s paws or mouth.
  • Tinsel — Christmas tree decorations such as tinsel and angel’s hair can be tempting for your pet, but if ingested, they can cause a gastrointestinal obstruction that may require surgery to remove.
  • Lights — The sparkling lights and electrical cords that power them may entice your pet to chew, but they can cause an electrical shock or burns to their mouth. 
  • Evergreen needles — If your pet ingests pine needles, they can become lodged in their intestinal tract or puncture their stomach or intestinal lining.
  • Tree water — The water used to hydrate the tree may contain fertilizers or bacteria that could be harmful to your pet.

#3: Protect your pet from cold weather chemicals

Cold weather chemicals such as antifreeze and rock salt are extremely dangerous for pets. 

  • Antifreeze — Ethylene glycol-based antifreeze is sweet and, therefore, tempting to pets. This ingredient is also highly toxic, affecting your pet’s nervous system and kidneys. Signs include lack of coordination, vomiting, depression, increased thirst and urination, and seizures.
  • Rock salt — A mixture of salt and grit, rock salt is used to help de-ice roads and walkways in the winter. When your pet is out for a walk, the rock salt can get on their paws and fur, and if they ingest the substance when grooming themselves, they can develop salt toxicity. Signs include increased thirst, vomiting, lethargy, and convulsions. In severe cases, kidney damage can occur.

#4: Protect your pet from the post-Christmas morning upheaval

After your family tears apart their gifts, leaving toys, wrapping paper, and ribbons throughout your home, ensure your pet does not ingest an interesting object when they investigate. Small objects can become lodged in your pet’s intestines if swallowed, and ribbons can bunch inside their intestinal tract, causing an obstruction. 

#5: Protect your pet from toxic decorative holiday plants

Several decorative holiday plants are dangerous for pets. Choose pet-friendly plants when decorating your home, or ensure the plants are out of your pet’s reach. Plants to avoid include:

  • Mistletoe and holly — These quintessential Christmas adornments contain saponins, which are toxic to pets. If ingested, these plants cause significant gastrointestinal upset, such as vomiting and diarrhea. Other signs include excessive drooling, lip smacking, and head shaking.
  • Lilies — All lilies can cause gastrointestinal upset if ingested, but some varieties are extremely toxic to pets, causing kidney failure. All parts of the plant, including the water used to hydrate the lily, are dangerous for your pet.
  • Chrysanthemums — These colorful plants contain pyrethrins and lactones, which are toxic to pets. Signs include lack of coordination, excessive salivation, vomiting, and diarrhea.

#6: Protect your pet from holiday partying

Having people over to celebrate the holidays can disrupt your pet’s routine and cause significant stress. Take a few precautions to keep them safe when you invite guests to your home.

  • Identification — Ensure your pet is wearing a collar and identification tags that have your current contact information. Microchipping is a great way to provide permanent identification for your pet to increase your chances of getting them back if they go missing. 
  • Pet retreat — Ensure your pet has an area where they can retreat to if the party becomes too overwhelming for them. For cats and shy dogs, consider leaving them restricted to this area while your guests are present. 

Follow these tips to safeguard your pet this Christmas season. If you would like to have your pet microchipped before the holiday festivities, contact our team at Town & Country Animal Hospital to schedule an appointment.