Gentle Touch Animal Hospital has teamed up with Santa to create naughty and nice lists for pet safety during the holidays. Read on to learn about pet risks with holiday food, decorations, and activities, and how to avoid pet holiday dangers.

Pets and holiday food

The naughty food list — Prevent pet access to these foods throughout the holidays:

  • High-fat foods — Pets may experience vomiting and diarrhea if they eat fatty foods, or any unusual or rich food, especially in large amounts. Gastroenteritis may progress to pancreatitis, a potentially life-threatening disease that requires aggressive treatment and intensive care.
  • Toxic foods — Many traditional holiday foods are toxic to pets, including chocolate, raisins, grapes, macadamia nuts, onions, garlic, and xylitol.
  • Bones — When pets chew turkey or chicken bones, the bones can splinter, and damage the throat, stomach, or intestines. We have seen many cases of pets who fractured teeth from chewing bones, whether cooked or raw.
  • Raw and undercooked food — Keep pets away from raw foods that can carry harmful bacteria such as Salmonella. Practice good kitchen hygiene, and secure the trash away from curious pets.

The nice food list — Provide these foods for your pet instead, to stay on Santa’s good side:

  • Their usual food — By far, the best choice for your pet this holiday season is a steady supply of their usual food. People want variety, but pets thrive on consistency in their diet. 
  • The same food, but different — Create safe treats for your pet by baking their canned food into holiday shapes, or simply use their daily kibble as treats throughout the day.
  • Safe people food choices — Pets are best served by a premium pet food, but if you must reach for table food, most pets tolerate small amounts of plain, unseasoned turkey, green beans, carrots, or sweet potatoes.

Pets and holiday decorations

The naughty decoration list — Don’t allow pets to access these decorations: 

  • Tree ornaments — Pets who chew or ingest sharp ornaments or strings may experience gastrointestinal upset, damage, or blockage.
  • Open flames and electrical cords — Candles and fireplaces are a burn hazard for pets. Puppies and kittens sometimes chew dangling extension cords, resulting in electrical burn, shock, and a trip to the pet emergency room.
  • Liquid potpourri Liquid potpourri contains ingredients toxic to pets, and a curious pet can sustain thermal burns if exposed. 
  • Toxic holiday plants — A small bite of a lily can cause severe, life-threatening kidney damage in cats, and mistletoe and holly are toxic to all pets.

The nice decoration list — Stick to these guidelines to keep pets safe around holiday decor:

  • Secure holiday trees — Restrict pet access to the tree area, but in case they reach the area, secure the tree well to prevent tipping. Use only pet-safe water additives for cut trees.
  • Non-flame candles — Battery operated votives, kept out of pets’ reach, are a safer alternative to open flames. 
  • Calming pet pheromone sprays — Pets share our homes, so instead of potpourri, consider their needs, and reach for calming Feliway or Adaptil sprays when things get hectic.
  • Indoor cat grass — Some holiday plants, such as Christmas cactus and poinsettia, are not highly toxic to pets, but providing an alternative, such as indoor cat grass, for pets to chew is the best option.

Pets and holiday activities

The naughty activity list — The following holiday activities are not pet-friendly:

  • Fireworks — Loud New Year’s fireworks can cause stress and injury to pets, especially those with noise phobias.
  • Alcohol — Pets can be tempted by eggnog, and can be poisoned by a relatively small amount of alcohol.
  • Stressful travel — Anxious pets can find travel stressful, especially something new, such as a plane ride.

The nice activity list — Be good to your pet this holiday season, and all year long:

  • Pet calming aids — The holiday hustle and bustle can be stressful for pets, so consider a ThunderShirt, or or pet calming supplement.
  • Long walks and hikes — Staying active with your pet benefits you both at the holidays. Ensure you use a safe harness, and bring fresh water.
  • Pet boarding — Consider boarding your pet as a safer, less stressful alternative to travel.

Gentle Touch Animal Hospital and Santa want you and your pets to have a safe and happy holiday season, so follow our tips to stay on the “nice” list all season long, and into the new year.