t’s fall again, and that means the holidays are just around the corner. While you try to get geared up for all the celebrations this year, why not take time to consider the impact of the holiday season on your four legged friends? Let’s take a look at some of the potential hazards for pets during the holiday season.


One of the most enjoyable parts of celebrating the holiday season is putting up the decorations! But before you begin unpacking it all, keep in mind the potential dangers to pets that share your home. Examine your holiday decorations carefully, considering the potential hazards. For example, strings of blinking electrical lights can be tempting for dogs and cats to chew on or play with, so supervise your pets carefully and hang them out of reach, if possible. Holiday trees can be irresistible for cats, so consider carefully the location and size of trees. Fragile ornaments can break and cause injury, while others may be harmful if ingested. Tinsel and other stringing materials, in particular, can cause significant harm to your pet’s digestive system and should be hung out of reach or eliminated altogether. Observing your pets as they investigate these items in their environment may help you decide which ones are the most dangerous or tempting for them. You may want to consider purchasing a gate to limit access to decorations when you are away from home or out of the room. Find a substitute to keep them focused during the holidays, if possible. I put a small holiday tree in an elevated area and compensate for its presence by placing a long sheet over a table close by. This “cave” is more exciting for my cats than the tree. They spend their time playing under the table instead of playing with the small tree and its decorations.


What would the holidays be without all the traditions surrounding food and eating? It’s not uncommon for us to indulge in rich, high-calorie foods we normally don’t eat, in quantities we normally don’t eat during the holidays! Since pets are members of the family, it’s tempting to include them in our holiday eating binges. Unfortunately, holiday foods can result in more than a bulging waistline for the family pet, they can be downright hazardous! Sudden changes in diet can result in gastrointestinal disease with diarrhea and vomiting or even something as life-threatening as severe pancreatitis. Instead of succumbing to the temptation to feed table food, purchase some low fat treats and snacks for your pets instead. Keep them handy for company to feed your pet as well. Decide ahead of time what the limitations are for pet-appropriate snacks and stick to it. Keep holiday candy out of reach, too. Remember, there’s nothing fun about going to the emergency clinic during the holidays, for you or the vet!


The holiday season also typically brings fall and winter weather. Don’t forget the impact on your senior pet as the seasons change. Arthritic conditions can flare up painfully during this time and pets may need additional medication to maintain their comfort level as temperatures fluctuate. Consult your veterinarian for advice and options for over the counter and prescription medications. Icy and snowy conditions may necessitate the use of external supports to assist your pet outdoors. Clear walkways of ice and snow whenever possible and choose a path for your senior pet to navigate through ahead of time. Inside, consider a heated bed or orthopedic pad for comfort. Remember to keep toenails trimmed and provide solid footing as pets come inside from snowy or icy conditions.

Changing Your Pet’s Environment

One of the things we experience as human beings is a resistance to change in our surroundings, especially as we get older. The same is true with our pets, especially senior pets. They find stability and security in their daily routine, just like we do. Changing that routine and the environment during the holidays can cause stress-related behavioral problems, such as anxiety, restlessness or irritability. Pets with vision and hearing deficits can become confused and fearful when things seem out of place or they struggle to navigate new terrain or obstacles. When possible, leave furniture, bedding and feeding areas the same during the holiday season. Try to keep feeding and exercise times as close to normal as possible. Know that your senior pet may have some housebreaking accidents if their routine changes. Make sure you have plenty of supplies you need ahead of time and remember to be patient. If they will be exposed to new people or pets over the holidays or you plan to travel with your senior pet, you may want to consider medications that will keep them comfortable. Consult your veterinarian if you have questions about helping your senior pet cope with holiday stress. Also, make sure you have routine medications filled in advance.

Last, but not least, remember to spend quality time with your senior pets during the holiday season. It’s easy to forget them in the holiday rush, but they need time and attention just the same. A special gift or toy can be part of your holiday plan, but time and affection from you are the best gifts of all. You won’t regret it!