Holiday Safety Essentials for Your Pets

Written by: Dr. Jean Hofve, Holistic Veterinarian, DVM

The holiday season, while a happy time for most people, can be a stressful and even dangerous time for pets. Their routines are upset, visitors abound, and extra-tempting smells are coming from the kitchen!

Foods to Avoid

Table Scraps

Sharing is one of the most beloved aspects of the holidays, and it's fine to share some turkey and other goodies with your pets. However, the caution about feeding "table scraps" remains in effect.

Do not give your cat or dog any dinner discards, like turkey or ham bones, or fatty items like turkey skin. These can cause serious tummy upset. In dogs especially, too much fat can trigger life-threatening pancreatitis. Ask dinner guests to refrain from feeding "under the table", or better still, keep pets safely confined during the festivities.


Chocolate, of course, is toxic to both dogs and cats. They’re safer with pet treats rather than sweets! Make sure any chocolate and human candy is well out of reach of your pets.

Dumpster Diving

After dinner, be sure the garbage is secure from any sneaky paws that may come prowling after the rest of the family is asleep! Onions, grapes, and many other human foods are toxic to pets. Make sure none of these end up in an easily accessible trash can.

Holiday Stress for Pets

The holiday season can be very stressful for our pets. Natural remedies are a great way to take the edge off of your pet's nerves without sedation. Depending on your pet's stress level and tolerance for the remedy, there are a number of options available.

If your pet experiences severe or chronic anxiety, it's best to consult with your holistic veterinarian to rule out any other issues.

Supplements & Herbals

Supplements, including calming compounds like magnesium and colostrum, and herbals, like valerian root, skullcap, and lavender, have long been used for people and pets alike.

Non-sedative, these calming agents are effective, but often take time to build up in your pet's system. During the holidays, it's helpful to give these daily as part of your pet's routine, that way, when stress arises, your pet will already be prepared.

Hemp & CBD

Hemp & CBD have been shown to be safe and effective for all sorts of anxiety issues, from acute moments of stress chronic anxiety and "high strung" pets.

Make sure you follow dosing instructions carefully, as cats and smaller dogs need less of the active ingredients.

Some hemp calming products combine various active ingredients, including herbals and compounds to deliver effective, non-sedative relief.


Homeopathy has shown to be very helpful for dogs and cats, especially in moments of acute stress. It's fast acting with no side effects.

Since homeopathy works on a different system from herbals, supplements, and CBD's, it has no counteractive ingredients and is often used in conjunction with these other remedies.


Dogs and cats can respond well to aromatherapy sprays, especially if they're used in the environment before the pet arrives and settles in. These sprays are great for beds, blankets, and spraying in the air.

For high strung dogs, collar clip-ons can be helpful for taking the edge off whenever they have their collar on.

Remember, dogs and cats respond differently to different scents. Dogs respond well to traditional calming aids, like lavender, whereas cats often do well with catnip essential oil.

Holiday Dangers for Pets


A Christmas tree may be irresistibly tempting to explore or even climb, so if you have one, make sure it's in a sturdy stand, and if necessary, secure it with twine or wire to keep it from falling.

Keep your pets away from the water in the stand, which can contain toxic tree sap and other chemicals. Use a tree skirt or wrap a towel, sheet, or other barrier around the base of the tree and stand and tape it securely, or otherwise make the area inaccessible to your furry friends.

Keep glass ornaments to a minimum if you must use them at all, and place them higher on the tree, with unbreakable ornaments lower down. A broken glass ornament is a minefield for tender little paws.

If a pet eats all or part of a glass ornament, immediately feed cotton balls or bread soaked in milk or cream; the soft material will gather up all the sharp pieces and guide them safely through the digestive system and out the other end. Monitor your pet and be prepared to visit the vet immediately. Keep other small or breakable holiday decorations out of reach.


Metal tinsel is rare these days, but Mylar garland and decorations can also pose a hazard if swallowed. Its sharp edges can cause serious damage to a pet’s intestines.

If your pet is young, or likes to chew on ribbons, garland and such, consider beaded garland instead. Also, when unwrapping presents, make sure all ribbon and string is safely disposed of - these can also be hazardous to pets if ingested.


Lights and wires on the tree and around the home pose an invitation to chew for both cats and dogs. Make sure all wiring is in good condition.

For wires that are easily accessible to curious mouths (especially young animals or those that like to chew things), run the wires through inexpensive foam pipe insulators. Of course, never leave the lights on overnight or when you aren’t home to supervise; many house fires have started that way!

Guests & Visitors

Parties and visitors increase the risk of a pet slipping out through an open door. Make sure all your pets are micro-chipped and wearing collars and ID tags.

If possible, provide a "base camp" for your pet that includes food, water, bed, scratching post, and litter box, in a room that’s less likely to be disturbed. No decorations in that room, especially lit candles!

To make base camp even more comforting to your pet, use an aromatherapy spray. Also, consider an interactive toy, like a treat dispenser, to keep them occupied while you're hosting guests.


A little extra care and attention will make this holiday season a safe and joyous one for the whole family!

Additional Resources