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holiday pet proofing

December 5, 2011

PetSafe® Expert

Michelle Mullins, KPA-CTP, CPDT-KA

Pet-Friendly Decorating and Gift Giving Tips for the Holidays

The holiday season continues as we finish out the year. Last month I covered some holiday tips on food, travel, parties and guests to make the time safe and fun for you and your pets. If you missed it, check it out here. This month I have some additional tips to share on decorations and gifts.


Decking out the house for the holidays gets us all in the holiday spirit, but one emergency trip to the veterinarian can ruin holiday fun. Pets can find the smells and textures of holiday decorations very interesting and many of these can be extremely dangerous. Both cats and dogs have pulled over Christmas trees and candelabras, ingested pine needles, tinsel, toxic plants, flowers and even tree lights. The wrapped gifts can also be dangerous. You can still make your home beautiful for the holidays. Just remember to decorate with your animal friends in mind.

  • Plants and flowers, including holly, mistletoe, poinsettias and pine needles can cause stomach irritation, intestinional blockages and even be toxic. Consider using them in places pets can not reach and/or use artificial versions. Although artificial pine needles and other plants can still be chewed or eaten pets often find them less interesting.
  • Ribbons, yarn, and string can cause intestinal obstruction and bunching of the intestines.
  • Adhesives and glues can be toxic and are often attractive to animals.
  • Potpourri contains oils that can be toxic to pets if eaten.
  • Candles can cause burns and fires. Never leave candles unattended or within reach of your pet.
  • Perfumes and after-shaves contain ethanol (alcohol) and perfume also contains essential oils which can be very toxic to dogs.
  • Batteries for toys or other gifts can be toxic and cause intestinal obstruction. Keep them in a safe place until they are ready to be inserted in the toys or electronics.
  • Place Christmas trees in a stable stand, and attach the tree securely to a window or wall with something like fish line. Use baby gates, or an indoor dog pen (placed around the tree) to keep pets away. Make sure your pet is supervised when in a room with a tree. I place my artificial tree up on the entertainment center or on the balcony – out of reach from my furry friends.
  • Tinsel's shininess is attractive to most pets. It can cause blockages and require surgery to remove. Leave it off the tree altogether.
  • Angel hair, flocking, and artificial snow are mildly toxic. If consumed in larger amounts they could cause blockages.
  • Chewing on electrical cords, including cords of lights can cause problems ranging from burned mouths, to electrical shock to death by electrocution. Some lights can become quite hot, and could also cause burns. Unplug decorative lights when you are not there, use pet-proof extension cords, and spray cords with a product such as Bitter Apple.
  • Don’t expect Fido to know the difference between his favorite tennis ball and those shiny, glass ornaments on the tree. Place breakable ornaments on higher branches.  

  • Don’t tempt your pets by decorating with food. Candy canes and gingerbread people can be as enticing to your dog as they are to children. Popcorn and cranberry garlands look lovely, but (the string) to which they are attached can cause obstructions when eaten.
  • Tree preservatives are often sugar-based which pets find yummy. Because the water stands so long, the water in the tree stand can harbor harmful bacteria. Fertilizers, insecticides, or flame retardants used on the tree may also contaminate the water. Cover the stand with a tree skirt or use other means to prevent access to the water.  


New pets are NOT good gifts! Thinking of getting a pet for your family or friend? – STOP! While a puppy under the tree sounds cute, consider all the noise, commotion and hazards of the season that make waiting until things settle down a much better option. You and the pet will be less stressed and have a better chance at getting off on the right foot after the holidays.

Consider giving the recipient some great dog/cat books, toys or a gift certificate for a training class instead.  The family can visit the local shelter to pick out their new family member after the New Year. Perhaps you and the family could even volunteer at a local shelter to make the holidays better for the wonderful pets waiting for a forever home. It is a great way to get to know the dogs and cats available and find the right one for you!  


When choosing a gift for a pet we make it easy here at Premier – just check out our store locator to find a retailer near you or our website for all the great toys, coats, treats and more! I recommend you avoid artificially colored rawhide and treats and always supervise your pets especially with new toys.  

The best gift you can give your pet is time. Spend time playing, walking and just hanging out – to them there is nothing better than the gift or time spent with you!

Written by

Michelle Mullins, KPA-CTP, CPDT-KA

Michelle Mullins, KPA-CTP, CPDT-KA

PetSafe® Trainer & Educator

PetSafe® Expert

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