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Is Your Holiday Decor Pet Safe?

As you haul out the holly this holiday season, it’s important to keep your pets in mind. While there isn’t much you can do to keep your cat from stomping through your miniature Christmas village, pet parents can take steps to keep common hazardous and toxic items safely out of reach.

Though table scrap mishaps involving harmful foods like turkey bones, raisins, and chocolate account for a lot of emergency vet visits over the holidays, unsafe decor can be disastrous for your pet as well as your home. Here’s what you need to know to keep things merry.

Dachshund wearing a sweater sitting under a decorated Christmas treePlants and Greenery

Christmas trees are a well-known source of angst for people with curious or active pets. Cats have been known to topple them over, and dogs have to be monitored to ensure that they don’t drink the water that may contain harmful pesticides sprayed onto live trees.

In the battle to keep pets away from the tree, many pet parents overlook other popular holiday plants, like:

  • Poinsettias
  • Holly
  • Mistletoe
  • Lilies
  • English Ivy
  • Amaryllis

While some pets ignore plants completely, it’s best to avoid the risk that they’ll come in for a nibble. Skip these holiday blooms, or display them in an area of your home that’s inaccessible to animals.

If your pet has an upset stomach or is showing signs of neurological impairment like poor balance, contact your vet right away.

Tinsel and Popcorn Strings

Stringed decorations, including tinsel and thin ribbon, can be life-threatening for pets if swallowed. Unfortunately, many pet parents don’t seek help because they assume these items will pass through their dog or cat’s digestive system on their own.

Linear foreign bodies like yarn and string can become anchored in pets’ stomachs or even wrapped around the base of their tongues, causing serious intestinal damage as the GI system tries to move the object forward and cannot. This type of blockage often requires emergency surgery, so it’s best to keep “stringy” decorations out of reach and choose wider ribbons for gifts.

Candles Two eskimo spitz laying with woman in front of a decorated Christmas tree.

Many pet parents assume that their dogs and cats will instinctively avoid an open flame, but every year, out-of-control tails start house fires.

Ensure that lamps and candles are in a place where they can’t be knocked over or swatted to the floor. Better still, opt for flameless LED candles and give yourself complete peace of mind.


To pets, dangling ornaments look like an invitation to play, especially ones that are hung lower on the tree at eye level.

Curious pets can easily shatter fragile glass ornaments, injuring paws (and feet). Further, dogs who love to chew can mistake salt dough ornaments for treats or chew toys, leading to dangerous salt toxicity.

Keep pets safe by placing pet-safe ornaments on the lower rung of your tree, and ensure that they have plenty of their own toys to keep them occupied.

Holiday Lights

If you have young pets or incorrigible chewers, be especially careful of corded holiday lights. Exposed wires can burn your pet’s mouth or even lead to electrocution and start fires.

Choosing a low voltage will help prevent fires and injuries if your pet gnaws on your string lights, but the best way to reduce risks is through good cable management. Tape down or hide loose cords, and try to avoid letting strings of lights dangle in a way that might be attractive to playful pets.