The holidays might be the most wonderful time of the year for you, but don’t forget holiday safety for your dog. Think of everything in your house this time of year — shiny, paper-wrapped boxes under the tree, glittering balls on those chewable branches and something that sure smells good in those big red socks hanging on the wall.
Okay, so your dog might find that wonderful, but you? Not so much. And while you’re scrambling to save your presents, ornaments and stockings from becoming your dog’s next chew toys, you might inadvertently be putting your dog in danger. That’s according to Dawn Pyne, the brand advertising manager for Embrace Pet Insurance in Cleveland, Ohio.
“Holiday decor items, such as trees, tinsel and ornaments, can all be potentially dangerous for your dog,” Dawn says. “They’re especially dangerous for new dogs or dogs that are left alone during the day and are not in crates. You run the risk of them getting into something without you knowing.”
So, how do you keep your dog safe this holiday season when there are so many distractions? Here are nine things to keep in mind when in comes to holiday safety for dogs:
Last year, I wanted to celebrate my German Shepherd Dog’s first Christmas by getting a small tree. However, I didn’t consider how my dogs would interact with the tree or the tree stand. Long story short, the tree got knocked over a lot when they decided to nose the branches or use the stand as a new water bowl.
Thankfully, it was a small tree and couldn’t really hurt them when it fell over. A large tree is a different story, though. Make sure your tree can’t fall over by securing the tree to your wall with rope or twine, Pyne says, or put a baby gate around it so your dog can’t even get near it.
The Dogster infographic, Keep Your Pets Safe Around the Christmas Tree, recommends the same. It is also mentions not putting chemicals in the water in the tree stand. While chemicals might keep the tree fresh, they could be dangerous to your dog. According to the Pet Poison Helpline, “these additives are typically some type of fertilizer, sugar and potentially a fungicide. These ingredients, when diluted in the water, are not particularly toxic but can result in gastrointestinal distress, such as vomiting or diarrhea.”
Tinsel may look great wrapped around your tree, and holiday spray may add a snowy effect to your windows, but it’s not the best thing to have around your dog.
Dawn points out that tinsel can obstruct a dog’s digestive system, and may make your dog vomit, have diarrhea or show other signs of illness. The fake snow spray for trees can be poisonous for dogs, too. If you see any signs of digestive issues or poisoning, get your dog to an emergency veterinarian right away.
I’ve made the mistake of decorating my tree with glass ornaments. Bad idea: My German Shepherd Dogs broke three before I realized it and I had to quickly sweep up the glass and make sure they didn’t swallow any of the pieces. Avoid using delicate ornaments, Dawn says. Use ornaments that are hard to break, like plastic ones.
Don’t use wood or fabric ornaments, either. Your dog may swallow the fabric ornaments, potentially causing digestive problems. Wood ornaments usually have paint on them, and you don’t know if the wood was treated with any sort of chemicals before it was turned into an ornament. Be safe, and stick with plastic ornaments.
“If you want to use heirloom or porcelain ornaments, put them near the top of the tree,” Dawn adds.
Whether it’s lights for the tree or around the fireplace, or an electric menorah in the windowsill, keep electric cords hidden from your dog or spray the area lightly with an anti-chew spray like Bitter Apple. The most obvious reason is that you don’t want your dog to accidentally electrocute himself if he chews on an electrical cord. This is especially crucial for puppies, who chew on everything because they’re teething and might not yet understand “no!”
Who doesn’t love presents under the tree? Your dog certainly will, and he may decide that a present looks like a colorful new dog toy. Not only might your dog destroy your presents and accidentally ingest ribbon or paper, he also might accidentally knock your tree over if it’s not secure (see point No. 1). Save yourself the headache and either put a baby gate around your tree and presents, or wait until Christmas morning to put them out.
If you use candles or fragrance oils for decorative purposes or for ceremonial reasons, keep them out of reach of your dog. You don’t want your dog to eat them, or accidentally knock them over, spilling hot wax or oil on him. (And you don’t want him to start a fire!)
Keep an eye on the candles you use for the Hanukkah menorah, too. Since you have to leave the candles burning for at least a half-hour after sunset, make sure your dog stays away from them. Another menorah precaution: When you’re using the shamash candle to light the other candles on the menorah, make sure no hot wax drips down on your dog.
When I was a kid, my stockings were usually filled with little chocolates in the days before Christmas. Avoid doing this if you have dogs. You might entice your dogs to take a bite from your stocking — and chocolate is, of course, toxic to dogs.
The same goes for the Gelt chocolate coins you use when you’re playing with the dreidel. Make sure your dog doesn’t accidentally sneak away with one!
Of course, there are a lot of other foods you should keep away from your dog. Here is a list of holiday foods that are toxic to dogs.
“People get really excited to decorate, and we recommend that you just be mindful of your pets when decorating,” Dawn says. “You might want to isolate your dog from the decor when you’re not home or when you can’t watch your dog.”
If your dog has never shown interest in your holiday decor, that doesn’t mean he never will. Dawn tells the story of a Labrador Retriever who decided to eat all of her owners’ Christmas decorations one day. “The Lab was two years old before she decided to eat something inappropriate,” she says. “It’s just something you always want to be mindful of.”
When it comes to holiday guests, make sure they know not to feed anything to your dog and how to interact with your dog. Some dogs will get stressed out by so many people around and may develop health issues like colitis. Consider crating your dog when you have guests over to help keep his stress levels down.
Tell us: What are your holiday safety tips for dogs? Have you ever experienced a holiday mishap with your dogs?
Thumbnail: Photography ©Sonja Rachbauer | Thinkstock.
This piece was published in 2017.