The holidays are a time of great joy and merriment, but it can be a dangerous time for pets. Christmas trees, over-sugared kids, and even turkey scraps can all pose a threat to the four-legged members of our families. Read on for tips to keep your furry friends safe this season – you (and your pet) will be glad you did!

Be Prepared

The most effective way to protect your pet is to be prepared in case of an emergency. Have the phone number and address of both your regular veterinarian and an emergency animal hospital available at all times. Additionally, the ASPCA has a poison control hotline specifically for pets. If you think it’s possible that your animal has gotten into something they shouldn’t, call 1-888-426-4435 immediately (you may have to pay a small fee for the service).

Don’t Feed the Animals

For many Americans, the holiday season is all about the rich and delicious foods. It’s important to remember that not all festive foods are good for animals, and can even lead to dangerous reactions. Chocolate, onions, raisins and grapes are all poisonous for dogs, even in small amounts. Turkey skin, gravy, pie, and other traditional holiday foods are also risky and can lead to a dangerous condition in animals called pancreatitis. Avoid sharing table scraps with Fido, no matter how much he may beg. If you want to include your pet in the feast, make their own special “animal friendly” plate to enjoy – include a special treat or wet food that they normally would not get in order to spread the cheer.

Decorate with Caution

Creating a warm and festive atmosphere is a big part of the holidays for lots of families, but it’s vital to keep in mind that Christmas trees and Hanukkah candles may create a problem for pets. Flowers and festive plants can result in an emergency veterinary visit if your pet gets hold of them. Amaryllis, mistletoe, balsam, pine, cedar, and holly are among the common holiday plants that can be dangerous and even poisonous to pets who decide to eat them. Poinsettias can be troublesome as well, so make sure to keep them out of reach of animals. Tinsel and other holiday decorations also can be tempting for dogs to eat. Consuming them can cause intestinal blockages, sometimes requiring surgery. Keep any homemade ornaments, particularly those made from salt-dough or other food-based materials, out of reach of pets.

Host Visitors Humanely

Having a house full of family and friends is a wonderful time for all, but can be overwhelming to pets who are used to a quiet atmosphere.  Even pets that aren’t normally shy may become nervous in the hubbub that can accompany a holiday gathering. Make sure Fluffy has a safe, quiet place to retreat to if they wish to bow out of activities. Tell your guests in advance about your animals and their temperaments. Also, be sure to block the exits to avoid any escape attempts when your visitors are coming and going. If your pet doesn’t fare well with lots of company, consider sending them to a fun doggy daycare while the party is underway.

The holidays are often called the most wonderful time of year. Follow the tips above to ensure everyone in your household has a fun and jolly season.

by Rachelle Gordon