Dogs

A vet’s guide to keeping your dog safe during Christmas holidays

Christmas is a time for family, friends, and fun. But it can also be a dangerous time for your dog if you’re not careful. There are a lot of things to watch out for – from decorations that can be chewed on to food that can make your dog sick. 

It’s also a busy time at all veterinary hospitals. That’s why I wanted to give you 5 tips on how to keep your dog safe this Christmas so you can enjoy a safe and happy holiday together.


While I am a veterinarian, this article is not intended to replace professional veterinary advice. If you have any medical concerns about your pet, consult your vet immediately. Always seek professional assistance if you are unsure of your pet’s health.


French bulldog puppy with Christmas presents
Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Christmas is a time of year that is celebrated by people all over the world. 

It is thought to have originated from the pagan festival of Saturnalia, which was held in honor of the god Saturn. December 25th was also thought to be the day that Jesus Christ was born. Over time, Christmas gradually became more and more popular and is now celebrated by millions of people every year.

Dogs are a big part of the Christmas celebrations for many people. They bring joy and happiness to the holiday season and are often considered to be part of the family. But with all the excitement and chaos that comes with Christmas, it’s really important to keep your dog safe. 

So here are my five tips for keeping your pup safe during the holiday season ☺️

#1 Keep human food out of your dog’s reach and your pup out of the kitchen

The stovetop and oven are hot and dangerous for dogs, as are many of the chemicals found in the kitchen.

And I know it can get a bit stressful in the kitchen when you’re trying to do 4 things at once, and having a dog underfoot can get annoying very quickly. Moreover, it is actually dangerous, not just for your pup but for you as well. Tripping over your pet while carrying a pot full of hot soup is not fun, believe me.

If you’re cooking holiday meals, make sure your pup is kept safely out of the way.

While human food may be tempting for dogs, it’s important to remember that it’s not good for them. Human food contains ingredients that can be harmful or even deadly to dogs. So it’s important to keep dog-friendly foods around and avoid giving your dog any human food during Christmas or any other time.

Chocolate and sweets are one of the biggest dangers to dogs during Christmas, so be sure to keep all chocolate products well out of their reach.

Chocolate is toxic to dogs. It’s made from roasted cocoa beans which contain methylxanthines, especially theobromine, and a small amount of caffeine. They are both toxic to cats and dogs.

The amount of methylxanthines in chocolate or cocoa products varies. The darker and less sweet the chocolate, the more toxic it can be to dogs. Here’s a guide on how different chocolate types impact dogs.

The lethal dose of both caffeine and theobromine is reportedly 100–200 mg/kg body weight, however, already 20mg/kg can cause clinical symptoms. And there’s also individual sensitivity to methylxanthines – some dogs can tolerate it a bit more, some a bit less.

To put it another way – One ounce (ca 28g) of milk chocolate per pound of body weight is a potentially lethal dose in dogs.

Many sugar-free candies contain Xylitol. Xylitol is harmless for humans but toxic to pets.

If your dog ate chocolate or sugar-free candies, call your vet immediately.

These are all members of the genus Allium and all of them are toxic to cats and dogs, even when cooked. They contain organosulfoxides, which are metabolized into sulfur compounds. These cause blood hemolysis, which means they can destroy red blood cells. 

Grapes, raisins, grape seeds, and other grape products are nephrotoxic, which means that they can damage your pet’s kidneys causing kidney failure. 

The raw dough contains yeast, which metabolizes sugars to ethanol. So your dog will actually get alcohol poisoning. Furthermore, yeast can cause extensive gas production in the stomach and abdomen, which is not only very painful but can further lead to other life-threatening conditions like gastric dilatation-volvulus (GVD or “bloat”).

Dogs were not made for eating fatty human foods. Fatty foods can cause severe pancreatitis, which is a very painful and hard-to-treat medical condition. 

Just like people, dogs can get drunk and suffer from alcohol poisoning. Ethanol and ethyl-alcohol can be found not just in alcohol beverages, but also in a variety of other products – rum-soaked fruitcake, rum tiramisu, mouthwash…

Symptoms of dog alcohol poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, difficulty breathing, tremors, and seizures. If you think your dog has consumed alcohol, call your veterinarian immediately.

Macadamia nuts are commonly used in cookies and other holiday treats. But they are actually quite poisonous to dogs. They contain toxins that can cause weakness, paralysis, and even death. Symptoms usually appear within 12 hours of consumption and include vomiting, tremors, high body temperature, and rapid heart rate. If you think your dog has eaten macadamia nuts, call your veterinarian immediately.

As you can see, human food is just not safe for your pup. If you want to bake something special for your furry family member, there are plenty of dog-safe Christmas cookie recipes on the internet he will be excited to eat ☺️

Digital pet planner for Goodnotes

#2 Secure your Christmas tree and keep decorations and candles out of reach

Christmas trees, decorations, and candles are also potential hazards for your dog during the holidays.

First, keep your dog away from the Christmas tree. The ornaments and lights on the tree can be dangerous if chewed on or ingested, and the branches can also prove hazardous if your dog jumps up at your tree.

Christmas decorations are beautiful, but can also be dangerous for your pet. The ornaments pose a choking hazard for your dog or can really harm your dog if ingested. Believe me, you don’t want your dog to spend the Christmas holidays in surgery. 

Keep decorations like tinsel and ribbons well out of your dog’s reach. 

❗️ Be very very careful if you want to use tinsel and have a pet. Actually, I would strongly advise you not to use tinsel if you have a pet, especially a cat. Tinsel is shiny and fun to play with, but it can be deadly.

Tinsel, ribbons, yarn… everything that’s “stringy” can result in a condition we call a linear foreign body. This happens when one end of the string wraps around the base of the tongue or anchors itself in the stomach and the rest moves into the intestines. Since it’s anchored at one end, it cannot be passed and will cause severe damage to your dog’s intestines. Linear foreign body is a life-threatening medical condition that needs immediate surgical intervention ❗️

At a vet clinic, Christmas time is mostly about food poisoning and surgeries. So please be careful with holiday decorations.

Also, make sure all candles are put safely out of reach of your dog – and keep an eye on him when he’s around just to be safe. You don’t want an accidental knockover to burn down your house.

Pets can get easily entangled in all kinds of stuff, so be careful where you put decorations with strings.

Wires and cords should be kept out of your pup’s reach (especially if you have a curious puppy), they can cause severe burns, shock, or death when chewed on.

To sum it up, make sure your tree is secured so your dog can’t knock it over, keep decorations and wires out of reach, and keep candles safely extinguished when not in use.

#3 Keep your dog away from holiday plants

There are several plants that are commonly used as decoration during the holidays that can be poisonous to dogs. These include holly, mistletoe, and poinsettias.

Poinsettias are popular Christmas plants. Their toxicity is largely over-hyped, they will not kill your pup, but they can cause skin irritation, drooling or vomiting. 

Even a few small bites can cause kidney damage and kidney failure in cats. The toxicity is not as high in dogs, but they can still cause mouth irritation, upset stomach, vomiting and/or diarrhea.

Mistletoe can be toxic if ingested, but luckily most people put them out of their pets’ reach, so we usually don’t see this often at vet clinics. 

Holly has spiny leaves that cause mechanical injuries and it also contains potentially toxic substances, which can cause gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea.

If you think your dog has eaten any of these plants, please call your veterinarian immediately.

#4 Keep an eye on your dog when you have visitors

Finally, keep an eye on your dog when you have guests over. Some people may not be familiar with dogs, and they may not know how to behave around them. Make sure your dog is always supervised when guests are over, just in case.

If you have one of those dogs that just explode when someone touches the doorbell, you can put a sign on the door to ask the visitors to call your phone or knock gently on the door.

It’s always safer to keep your pup in a separate room, at least until he gets a bit used to having so many people in his territory.

#5 Buy a dog-safe costume if you want your dog to wear one

If you want your pup to wear a costume, make sure it is safe for your dog. He needs to be able to breathe and move freely. It shouldn’t constrict his eyesight or hearing.

Make sure it doesn’t have small pieces that could be chewed off and swallowed or choked on. It should fit your dog properly and not be too loose, saggy, or too constricting.

Don’t force your dog to wear it. If it’s a fight to get him into his costume, please just don’t do it.

Also, don’t leave your pup alone in a costume, especially if he hates it. You would be surprised how fast he can chew or scratch it off (or get into a full-blown panic attack)

Infographic: 5 tips on how to keep your dog safe during Christmas

Christmas is a time for family, friends, and fun. But it’s also a time when there are lots of potential hazards for your dog. By following these tips, you can help keep your dog safe and happy this holiday season.

Wishing you and your furry family a happy and safe holiday season! 🤗

Merry Christmas everyone! ❤️😊

merry christmas from vetcarenews

4 Comments

  • nia

    Really smart to have these considerations. I didn’t think of how a dog might be affected by Christmas decorations. Thanks for sharing!

  • Dana

    This is a great article about how to keep your dog safe during Christmas. We have 2 cats, but my mom has a dog. I’ll pass this info along to her!

  • Fransic verso

    We definitely need to keep an eye on when visitors come since it’s a holiday and friends and family come to visit. These are great tips!

  • Olga

    Thank you for the useful article. Our dog has health problems this year and we have kids who drop food on the floor. So looks like we must be very careful this holiday.

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