Holiday Hazards 5: Holiday Decorations


Getting those holiday decorations out? Be careful! A beautifully decorated room or Christmas tree holds the potential to harm or injure your pet, or even create a fire hazard. Using caution and implementing some pet safety measures can go a long way in keeping your pet hazard-free this holiday season.

Here are some holiday decoration pet safety hazards to watch out for:

Foreign body ingestion:

Cats: A classic foreign body ingestion for cats is the “linear foreign body”. Many cats love to play with strings, and they may accidentally ingest all sorts of things during the holidays (Christmas tree tinsel, ribbons, sewing threads, strings, twist ties). If you have cats, keep these things out of reach, or consider alternate decorating ideas.

Dogs: Some dogs will chew and eat inappropriate items. Of course this can happen all year long, but special holiday decorations can add to the temptation. From small ornaments and decoration pieces, to batteries, all the way to electrical cords – keep them out of your dog’s reach. If your pet is known to be a chewer, always supervise them or have them in their crate if you can’t keep an eye on them.

Take a look at what happened to this very sweet Great Dane puppy Grace:

When Grace was around 9 months of age, she was left unsupervised for a short period of time. When her owners returned home they found pieces of chewed up electrical cord. Fortuitously, a video camera had been recording the area and after watching the video, they realized Grace had chewed up and eaten somewhere between 8 and 12 feet of electrical cord (thankfully the cord had not been plugged in). Radiographs taken at Lawndale soon after the ingestion showed numerous pieces of chewed up cord in her stomach. We are happy to report Grace made a full recovery from her episode – she was a very lucky pup!

Broken Ornaments and lights:

If a pet tries to eat a glass ornament, the glass shards can cut the mouth or cause serious damage in the intestinal tract. Broken ornaments or light fixtures on the floor hold the potential to cut your pet’s foot or pads if stepped on. Be sure to clean any broken pieces up thoroughly. Keeping breakable ornaments high on the tree and out of reach of pets could be a good strategy. However, if you have a cat that loves to climb the Christmas tree, then shatterproof ornaments may be your best bet!

Burn and Fire Hazards:

Burn and fire hazards can come in a variety of ways with holiday decorations. If you have a pet that likes to chew light strings or cords, then that is a clear electrocution and fire danger! Burning candles can get knocked over by rambunctious cats or overzealous dog tails – so keep them out of pet’s reach to avoid burns or fire risk. Keep pets from playing too close (or in!) the Christmas tree to minimize chances of problems from the tree. Remember, some holiday lights can get hot and if your pet is too close it can burn them.

Christmas tree basics: 

Keep your pets from chewing on Christmas trees – live or artificial. The sharper needles could be irritating to the mouth or stomach, and they could be difficult to digest. Christmas tree water for live trees should not be ingested. The water could contain preservatives, toxic chemicals, or even bacteria that could be harmful for your pet. Secure your tree to a wall so that it does not fall and harm your pet. Finally – don’t decorate your tree with real food. This could be a sure way to have the tree pulled over by a pet that finds the food and tries to eat it!

Toxic Holiday Plants:

Many ornamental holiday plants are toxic to pets – stay tuned for next week’s blog specifically devoted to toxic plants!

Happy (and safe!) decorating!

Author: Dr. C. Noureddine, DVM, MS