Ah, the holidays — the neighborhood lights up, a new favorite cookie pops on the scene (gingerbread with lemon icing… mmmmm) and even your stoic bus driver smiles more.
If decorating with your dog is part of your holiday routine (one bark for a little to the left, two barks for a little to the right) or you’re hosting friends or family with dogs, keep in mind that some of your favorite holiday must-haves could be dog-unfriendly. So, in the middle of gearing up for the most wonderful time of the year, take a few extra steps to keep your sidekick — or your best friend’s sidekick — safe. It’s easier than you think.
We’re not going to tell you to skip the Christmas tree if you celebrate Christmas, but it’s worth your time to take some extra security measures to keep it from tipping. You can anchor your tree to the wall (or even the ceiling) to keep it upright (here’s how). Use a ScatMat to keep pets away or place an exercise pen around the tree to avoid the issue altogether. If you go with a natural tree, make sure to vacuum or sweep up needles regularly; if mistaken for a snack, tree needles can cause mouth and stomach irritation. An added bonus of tree cleanup: You get a nice waft of that fresh pine smell every time you clean.
Tinsel, popcorn strings, tree lights and ornaments are lovely to look at, but if your dog chows ’em down, they can block your pet’s intestines and even infect their belly. Some of the safety measures we recommended for your tree itself also apply to your tree decorations; keeping your pet away from the tree, period, is probably your best bet. Instead of putting their present under the tree (especially if it’s something fragrant like treats or a bone), keep it in a separate room until it’s time to dig in — and make sure to take a video of the ensuing cuteness.
Wires, batteries and candles
Gingerbread cookie. Holiday garland. Cranberry chutney. The scent selection is — wonderfully — endless. If your decorations include candles, make sure to put them higher than any wagging tail can reach, and use candle holders to be extra-safe. Put out any flames before you leave the room. If some of your decorations include batteries, make sure they’re inaccessible to dogs, because punctured batteries can cause burns to the mouth and esophagus. We know a lot of this sounds like common sense, but it can be easy to forget basics like this in the middle of a cooking and baking blitz.
You probably already know that poinsettias are toxic for dogs, but did you know holly, mistletoe and other festive holiday plants can also cause gastrointestinal upset — and even heart arrhythmia? Keep these plants out of reach, ideally in an inaccessible room to your dog, or skip them altogether. Safe and beautiful substitutes include: roses, marigolds, orchids, daisies or silk or plastic flowers. Bonus: They’re just as easy on the eyes.
Candy and candy wrappers
The holidays wouldn’t be the holidays without treats, right? Here’s the thing: Some of the most popular stocking stuffers are a no-no for two reasons — their ingredients and their packaging. You probably already know that chocolate is toxic for dogs, but it doesn’t end there: Candy — including some peppermints — often contains xylitol, an artificial sweetener that causes hypoglycemia and even liver damage in dogs. As for the wrappers themselves? They can cause bowel obstruction, so make sure to immediately throw away wrappings from candy you’ve enjoyed. Just because your dog can’t have a candy cane doesn’t mean that they have to miss out on the fun. Check out these festive holiday recipes for dogs, and pick one (or two, or three…) your dog will love.