Planning for the holidays with your dog in mind

We found this article in a recent issue of The Journal, and with the author’s permission we are relaying this important information to you.

by Rose Lehuallani Perry

The holiday season is my favorite time of year as I think of reconnecting with loved ones and gratitude for all I have. But for our routine-oriented canine companions, the holidays introduce an overabundance of new situations – the Christmas tree, people, gifts and food – not to mention all the emotions families bring to this time of year. And with the focus on special preparations, fun and stress, we can sometimes forget about basic pet safety. Here are some ideas to help make this a joyful, safe season for all family members, including dogs.


A Christmas tree with its dangling ornaments and shiny tinsel can be very fascinating to a dog. Decorations can be dangerous when ingested, causing poisoning or blockage in your dog’s intestines. Metal ornament hangers are especially dangerous. A swallowed hanger can act like a fishhook in a dog’s throat or stomach. Instead, I use short ribbons to hang ornaments, placing them up high, away from dogs’ mouths. Long ribbons, if eaten, can get wrapped around intestines and be fatal.

When my sheltie, Shasta, was a puppy I’d leave the bottom tree limbs empty to eliminate any temptation. Now that my dogs are grown up, I let them get an initial sniff of the trimmed tree, and then it holds no more interest for them.

Water in Christmas tree stands is another challenge. It sits for long periods and if tree-extenders like aspirin or chemicals are added, it becomes toxic for pets. Try cutting out a cardboard cover for the tree stand so your dog can’t get to the water and only refill it when she isn’t watching.

I love holiday plants but I place them out of reach of curious noses and mouths. Most common holiday plants are toxic including pointsettias, holly, mistletoe and exposed plant bulbs like amaryllis and lily.

Make sure candles are out of reach of inquisitive noses and wagging tails. Even my fragrant oil diffuser is a draw for Shiloh and Shasta. Watch out – they’re also toxic. As with small children, puppy-proof your living space.

Cold weather products

Most car antifreeze contains ethylene glycol. It’s sweet tasting so dogs lick it right up. Even a small amount causes kidney failure. Watch out for spills on your garage floor or puddles in parking lots. Check any paw licking by your four legged friends. I’m always on alert when walking my dogs.

Ice melting crystals used on driveways, roads and sidewalks are another concern. The crystals can get wedged  between paw pads and cause burns. When purchasing antifreeze or ice melting crystals, look for the “pet-safe” labels, as some of these products are non-toxic for pets.

Holiday foods

Dogs will eat almost anything. But beware:

  • Too much turkey meat can cause canine pancreatitis
  • Cooked, hollow bones splinter when dogs chew them and can become lodged in their throat
  • Macadamia nuts are toxic, as is the sugar in pies, cakes and candies
  • Raisins and grapes are a source of kidney problems
  • Chocolate is dangerous. It contains theobromine, a chemical that affects a dog’s heart, kidneys and central nervous system.
  • A small amount of alcohol can poison a dog.

Food left on tables or counters, as well as in the garbage, is a target for theft so secure it from scavenging canines.


  • Holiday visitors may not be pet owners or understand your dog’s personality, so please educate them.
  • Tell children to ask before they pet or play with your dog.
  • Dogs love to nose around in bags and purses. They may contain medications or other harmful items. Be careful where you place them.
  • Ask guests to be calm around your dog. If the pup gets too excited and overwhelmed, give her a time out.

Create a safe place where she can escape when things get too hectic in your home. It gives her an area to relax before she becomes overly nervous or irritated.

Planning the holidays with your dog in mind will help her stay healthy and happy. Use extra vigilance to make this a great time for you and your furry family members.

Used with permission from author. Rose Lehuallani Perry is an accredited and certified professional dog trainer who provides in-home training. For more information, visit or call (425) 879-1261.

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