7 Tips to Keep Your Pet Healthy Over the Holidays

The holidays are full of fun and festivities. But sometimes, they’re not so holly-jolly for our pets. Here are seven tips to make sure your pet has a happy and healthy holiday season.

1. Know where to get emergency vet care

It’s Christmas Eve, and you think your dog has swallowed something weird. What do you do? Emergencies are never easy, and special holiday vet hours might further complicate the situation.

The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends asking your veterinarian in advance where to take your pet for emergency care throughout the holidays. Write down the phone number of your emergency clinic, and call to verify its holiday hours. Plus, having the number for a poison control hotline (such as the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center) handy might even save you an emergency vet trip. Hopefully your holidays go by without a crisis, but it’s always safer to be prepared.

2. Keep dangerous foods out of reach

Pug stealing Christmas cookies

Credit: DarrensProFotos/Getty Images

Many typical holiday goodies are anything but treats for our pets. The AVMA specifically warns against chocolate and other sweets (many contain xylitol, which can be toxic to pets), baked goods, yeast dough and table scraps. “During the holidays, when our own diets tend toward extra-rich foods, table scraps can be especially fattening and hard for animals to digest and can cause pancreatitis,” according to the AVMA.

Furthermore, the ASPCA warns against leaving alcoholic drinks unattended around pets. “If ingested, your pet could become weak, ill and may even go into a coma, possibly resulting in death from respiratory failure,” it says. And if you have guests staying with you, make sure they know to keep any medications secured away from pets. Because so many of the items we ingest can be toxic to animals, all guests must be on board with food and drink safety.

3. Explain house rules to guests

Speaking of guests, it’s critical all visitors to your home are mindful of your pet. Make sure everybody knows about any animals who live in your home before they come over, so people who are allergic, have compromised immune systems, are nervous, etc. can take precautions. It might end up being best for everyone to keep your pet in a separate area.

Remember that a holiday party can be stressful on pets even one who is normally friendly and outgoing. So make sure your pet always has a quiet, comfortable place where they can go that’s away from the commotion. Always be aware of where your pet is, and keep an eye on the exits as guests come and go. (Guests don’t always understand how fast pets can slip out doors, grab food off plates, etc.) And make sure your pet is wearing their collar and current ID tags prior to guests arriving just in case they do accidentally get out.

4. Maintain your pet’s routine

Many people have fluctuations to their normal routines during the holidays parties, travel, odd work hours, days off, etc. But try to keep your pet’s routine as normal as possible to prevent undue stress. As those of us with animals are well aware, they wake up at pretty much the same time every day and know down to the minute when it’s meal time. And some take better to changing routines than others.

Try to limit the noise, commotion and stress that ensue around holidays as much as possible. Stick to your pet’s regular exercise and play regimen, so they don’t put excess energy to destructive behaviors. And keep their feeding schedule (and diet) the same. Make sure anyone caring for your pet while you’re away knows how to follow the routine, as well.

5. Pet-proof your decorations

Grey tabby kitten playing with an ornament in a Christmas tree

Credit: MW47/Getty Images

Decorations can be a huge safety hazard for animals. They’re breakable, they’re toxic and some are just plain dangerous (chewed light cords, anyone?). So even though you wish you could completely deck the halls, sometimes you might have to make some pet-proofing adjustments.

The ASPCA recommends securely anchoring Christmas trees, so a pet can’t tip them over. (PetMD offers some tips on helping cats and Christmas trees to coexist.) Avoid real holly, mistletoe, poinsettias and potpourris, as they can be toxic to pets. Also, skip the tinsel, even though the kitties love batting it around. Ingesting tinsel can block the digestive tract, which might require surgery. Keep wires out of reach, and unplug lights and decorations any time you’re not around. Plus, don’t ever leave lighted candles or fires unattended. Remember, all your decorations are new and exciting to curious pets, so prevent their investigations from taking a dangerous turn.

6. Take out trash promptly

If you’re having a holiday at home, you’ll likely produce more trash than normal. And some of that trash might be very interesting to your pet, so try to get rid of it as quickly as you can.

Clear food promptly, and dispose of it outside as soon as possible, so the smells don’t tempt your pet. Remove gift wrap quickly, as well. String, ribbons, bows, packaging and even wrapping paper can be choking hazards or cause intestinal blockages if a pet eats them. Likewise, be cautious about leaving wrapped gifts under your tree or somewhere else a pet can reach them. It’s better to be safe than have to return all your gifts to pay a hefty vet bill.

7. Prepare well in advance if you’re traveling

A grey and white cat sitting in a packed suitcase

Credit: humonia/Getty Images

Just as you put a lot of care into your own travel plans, a pet’s vacation takes ample planning, as well. If your pet is coming with you, make sure you always have a health certificate from your vet, even if you’re traveling by car, the AVMA recommends. Learn the pet requirements for anywhere you’re visiting or just passing through. In a car, always make sure your pet is safely restrained and comfortable. And if you’re traveling by air, be sure to get your vet’s go-ahead to bring your pet, as it can be risky for some.

If your pet will be staying behind, ask your vet for recommendations on boarding facilities or pet sitters. Make sure your pet is up to date on vaccines, especially if they’ll be in contact with other animals. And regardless of whether your pet is coming with you or staying with someone else, don’t forget about their packing list. Remember food, toys, medications, medical records, first aid supplies and anything else your animal needs to have a safe, comfortable holiday.

Main image credit: TatyanaGl/Getty Images


Debbie F
Debbie F3 months ago

Thank you!

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danii p3 months ago


danii p
danii p3 months ago


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danii p3 months ago


Jessica C
Jessica C3 months ago

yes thanks!

Mike R
Mike R4 months ago


Edgar Zuim
Edgar Zuim4 months ago


Chad A
Chad Anderson4 months ago

Thank you.

Jessica C
Jessica C4 months ago


Naomi B
Naomi B4 months ago

Thanks for sharing!