By, Jodi L. Hartley

We’re heading into the holiday season, which means an onslaught of yummy human foods, decorations, visitors, and, of course, stress. As much as the holidays bring joy, they also bring lots of opportunities for our beloved furry family members to become sick or anxious. Help keep the holidays jolly and bright for your pooch by being aware of these dangers.


We humans love holiday food, and the joyful mood makes us want to share it with our loved ones. But beware serving up even a tidbit of holiday food to your dog. Fatty foods like gravy and mashed potatoes can cause severe stomach upset and even lead to a potentially fatal bout of pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is painful inflammation of the pancreas and causes vomiting and diarrhea that can lead to dehydration. Turkey bones are a choking hazard and can lead to major problems by puncturing the stomach and intestines. Other foods can be toxic to dogs such as chocolate, coffee, tea, onions, garlic, alcohol, walnuts, macadamia nuts, yeast dough, and foods containing the artificial sweetener xylitol.


Christmas trees, lights, ornaments, garland, tinsel, holiday plants, candles and even snow globes pose potential hazard to your dog. Pine needles are toxic to dogs so they shouldn’t be permitted to chew on the tree’s limbs. Lights, ornaments, garland and tinsel may be tempting for your dog to chew on or play with. None of these should be ingested as they can cause blockages and internal injuries. Happy tails can knock over lit candles and breakable snow globes. Even the water for your natural Christmas tree can be deadly – it can contain anti-freeze and other chemicals.

Gifts and Toys

Keep ribbon and other gift wrap out of paw’s reach. They can be ingested and cause digestive problems or blockages. Wrapping paper also contains inks and dyes that can be hazardous. Keep a watch out for toys or other gifts that your dog may be tempted to chew. She may not only ruin the gift, but also choke on or be cut by pieces of material broken off, experience digestive upset or blockage by swallowed bits or ingest toxic chemicals. Many toys and electronics contain batteries. Batteries contain corrosives that can burn your dog’s mouth, throat and gastrointestinal tract.


Whether your dog loves them or becomes more anxious around them, visitors create a change in your dog’s routine. If new guests stress your dog, give her a quiet place in the house to rest until they leave. If your dog loves visitors, be sure to remain firm in your obedience training so that she isn’t jumping all over them or stealing their holiday treats. Be sure guests know not to feed your dog anything without your approval. It’s also important to supervise all interactions between visitors, especially children, and your dog.

Schedule Changes

It’s inevitable that the holidays create change in your dog’s routine. Try to keep her schedule as close to normal as possible, making sure she has regular meals, plenty of fresh water, exercise and play time. Give her, and yourself, some quiet time from the hustle and bustle.

As always, be sure to have your local emergency vet’s phone number programmed in your phone and/or posted near your home phone and know where your emergency vet is located in case of emergency.

Happy Holidays!

Jodi L. Hartley has been a writer and public relations professional since 1992. Her experience includes public relations and marketing for Club Canine, as well as volunteer work with animal rescue organizations. Hartley holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and an M.B.A.

Petfinder: Holiday Pet Health Tips

Association of Professional Dog Trainers: Dog Safety Tips for the Holidays

The Whole Dog Journal: How to Keep Your Dog Safe This Holiday Season