Tips For a Calamity-Free Holiday Season

Guest post by Melanie Monteiro

Can you believe the holidays are upon us already? That’s right, PetParents — ‘tis the season for food, family, festivities and “waaaait a minute… what just happened to the pie that was cooling on the counter?”

As many a dog owner can attest, even the most self-controlled pups can cave in to the tempting smells, sights and novel situations that surround them throughout the season. So how can you prevent the coming months from becoming one big counter-surfing, tree- tipping, pie-pilfering free for all?


Many holiday favorites are dangerous for dogs – in fact, vet visits for GI-related issues and accidental toxic ingestions notoriously spike between Thanksgiving and New Years. The following list will help you take extra precautions.


  • Turkey skin, fat trimmings, and other high fat foods (GI upset/pancreatitis risk)
  • Cooked bones (Choking/GI hazard)
  • Yeast dough (can ferment and expand in stomach causing blockages and alcohol poisoning)
  • Chocolate (the darker the chocolate, the more toxic)
  • Xylitol (found in some candies, baked goods, gum, mints, certain brands of peanut butter)
  • Raisins/currants/grapes (may cause acute kidney failure)
  • Macadamia nuts (can cause temporary paralysis)
  • Nutmeg (may cause tremors/seizures)
  • Rhubarb (can cause neurologic, organ and GI problems)
  • Onions, chives, high quantities of garlic (can damage red blood cells)
  • Caffeinated drinks (can cause dangerously elevated heart rate, body temperature and more)
  • Alcoholic drinks (can cause elevated heart rate, collapse, coma and more)
  • Fruitcake (contains raisins and/or currants and rum – all potentially toxic)
  • Cooking twine, skewers, foil and other items covered in meat juice (GI/choking hazards)

OKAY (in moderation, of course!):

Your holiday feast doesn’t have to be a complete canine buzz-kill. If your dog doesn’t have any food sensitivities or GI issues, feel free to share a bite or two of the following, BEFORE they are seasoned or covered with sauces:

  • Plain, skinless, cooked turkey
  • Cooked yams or potato
  • Canned or fresh cooked pumpkin
  • Steamed or raw green beans, apple slices, berries


  • Don’t leave rising yeast rolls, hot cookware, or tempting foods unattended on tables or countertops.
  • Secure all trash. Double-wrap skewers, cooking twine and any juice-covered packaging as an added precaution.
  • Don’t leave food plates, alcoholic drinks, candy/nut dishes unattended.

 Ornaments, extension cords, ribbons, tinsel, potpourri, candles, batteries and certain plants are among the list of holiday pet hazards. To prevent accidents:

  • Keep loose electric cords bundled and taped up to the wall if possible; unplug cords when not in use; give cords a liberal spritzing of bitter spray if you have a chewer in your household.
  • Prevent “tree tipping:” Avoid placing your Christmas tree in front of your dog’s favorite lookout window; anchor the tree to to a ceiling beam or wall (search how-to online); keep breakable ornaments towards the top of the tree; avoid edible decor such as popcorn garland or candy canes; check the ground for fallen ornament hooks; avoid keeping food gift baskets under the tree.
  • Prevent access to dangerous plants such as mistletoe, holly/holly berries, pine needles, bulbs and Christmas tree water (which can harbor harmful pesticides and bacteria). Contrary to popular belief, the often-maligned poinsettia is only mildly toxic!

Noisy parties, visitors, costumes, fireworks – what’s fun for humans can be downright terrifying for many pets. Be sensitive to your dog’s fears and insecurities, and provide a safe, quiet place if he or she seems disturbed by these holiday happenings. Be especially mindful with puppies, who can be easily overwhelmed by new experiences and a dozen people all wanting to pet and hold them at once.


Sometimes, despite our best efforts, accidents can still happen. The following tips can help set you and your pets up for a successful outcome should a crisis occur.

Get set in advance: Ensure your pet’s tags and microchip info are up-to-date; double-check collars for proper fit; place baby gates as needed to prevent bolting through open doors, sneaking into the kitchen, or gaining access to hazardous areas while unattended. Update the emergency info in your smartphone (vet, ER, pet poison and microchip hotlines).

Get a pet first aid kit. My favorite kit right now is from Trailblazing Tails (these also make a great holiday gift for the fellow Pet Parents in your life.

Learn pet first aid! Pre-holidays are the perfect time to learn or brush up on your pet first aid skills, should an accident occur such as your pup ingesting something dangerous, choking, or bolting into the street. For those who are time-crunched or can’t find a class nearby, I’m offering a special discount on my online course “Dog CPR, First Aid + Safety.” This vet-endorsed, video-based certificate course will arm you with a full range of prevention and lifesaving first aid skills to keep your furry ones safe, and you can take the lessons at your own pace, with no time limit. Learn more here and use code: PetParent to get this $60 course for just $29 if you enroll by Dec. 31st.

Wishing you and your pets a safe and happy holiday season!

Melanie Monteiro is a dog safety coach, pet first aid instructor and author of The Safe Dog Handbook: A Complete Guide to Protecting Your Pooch, Indoors and Out. She offers complete, vet-endorsed online and hands-on certificate training in Dog CPR, First Aid & Safety. For more info visit

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