The holidays are a time for family, friends, celebration, and more than enough sweets and culinary treats to last the entire year. It can also be a disruptive time for pets, with new surroundings, more visitors, and more potential for getting into trouble around the home.

The last thing you want to add to your holiday plans is an emergency trip to the veterinary clinic. Use the tips below as a guide to a happier and healthier holiday season for yourself and your pet.

Holiday foods to keep your pet away from

Plenty of humans worry about holiday weight gain, thanks to all the delicious foods that accompany the holiday season. But some holiday foods can put your pets at risk of problems far greater than an extra pound or two.

  • Turkey: While it’s often the centerpiece of holiday meals, turkey and turkey skin are no-nos for dogs. They’re known to cause pancreatitis, a potentially life-threatening condition, in animals.

  • Chocolate: The sweet treat is a holiday hit, whether in delicious desserts or stuffed into stockings. However, chocolate is toxic for dogs and cats.

  • Eggs: Plenty of holiday recipes call for eggs. Cooked eggs are generally safe in moderation for dogs, but they’re just as at risk of salmonella from raw eggs as humans are.

  • Bones: It’s tempting to let your pup clean meat off of bones, but bones are a choking hazard and can splinter, potentially leading to other health issues.

  • Table scraps: Holiday meals mean a hodgepodge of culinary delights for people but may include ingredients that are poisonous to pets. Avoid offering table scraps with onions, grapes, garlic, and nuts, which are all considered toxic for pets.

  • Trash: Keep trash containers secured or hidden to keep pets from digging through your trash and potentially eating toxic foods. Empty your trash regularly to lessen the temptation, especially if they regularly get into the garbage.

Learn More: How Much Does the Vet Cost?

Potentially harmful holiday decor

What would the holidays be without all the decor that brightens the season? But all that glitters isn’t necessarily golden for your pets.

  • Christmas trees: Trees are a potential hazard, whether you prefer an artificial or a real one. They can tip over if pets try to climb them. If you put up a real tree, keep pets from ingesting needles, which can cause intestinal obstruction.

  • Tree water base: Real trees need water to survive, and people often use water additives to keep them fresher. Unfortunately, these additives are a hazard for pets to ingest. Skip using water additives if you have pets in your home.

  • Christmas lights: Pets are susceptible to burns when chewing on Christmas lights. Keep pets away from Christmas lights on your tree or hung around your home. Unplug any lights when you leave pets home alone.

  • Ornaments: What’s a Christmas tree without ornaments adorning its branches? Broken ornaments are a considerable hazard to pets if ingested. The same goes for homemade ornaments made from salt dough or other food materials.

  • Tinsel: Tinsel and other holiday decorations are hazardous to pets when ingested and can cause intestinal irritation and blockages.

  • Candles: Never leave candles unattended, especially with pets in the home. Pets may knock a candle over, spilling hot wax on themselves or potentially starting a fire.

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Did You Know?

At the end of 2021, 3.9 million pets were covered by pet insurance, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association. That was a 28% increase from 2020.

Holiday guest behaviors to avoid

Gatherings with family and friends are one of the brightest parts of the holiday season. But sometimes your pets may not feel as welcoming to your guests as you do.

  • Don’t leave your pets outside. Avoid leaving pets outside unattended for extended periods when the temperature drops. For outdoor dogs, ensure they have proper shelter to stay warm and dry.

  • Have a plan for other pets. A Christmas party may not be the best time to introduce new animals to your home, especially if you have pets and aren’t sure how they’ll interact with other animals. Either plan a time to get them acclimated or decline requests from other guests who want to bring their pets.

  • Clean up after yourself. Cleaning up after holiday dinners may not be at the top of your agenda, but it should be if you have pets that tend to get into trash or jump up on counters. Dispose of turkey carcasses, bones, and other hazardous food items that could harm pets.

  • Provide a safe space. Make sure your pets have a safe, quiet space in the house when they need to retreat away from the noise and bustle of holiday festivities.

Compare Quotes: Find a Pet Insurance Policy for Your Budget

Tips for traveling with your pet during the holidays

You may be excited about your holiday trip to Grandma’s house, but your pet may be more comfortable staying in a familiar environment. If you must travel with your dog or cat, be sure to take steps to manage their stress levels during the journey.

  • Consider your pet when booking travel. Think about your pet when making travel plans, including accommodations and transportation. Some animals are fit for air travel, while others aren’t. Consult with your veterinarian for guidance on your pet’s ability to travel.

  • Talk to hosts. If you’re staying with family or friends for the holidays, ask about accommodations and other details that may affect your pet. Let them know of any special accommodations or requests in advance so they can plan accordingly.

  • Vet kennels and pet sitters. Perform due diligence if you’re planning to board your pet while you travel. Ask family and friends for recommendations. Also, make sure your pets are caught up on vaccinations to protect them from infectious diseases.

  • Follow safety guidelines when traveling. Some states (and countries) have specific policies concerning transporting pets. Find out about any requirements you must follow wherever you visit or pass through during your travels. Ensure your pet is properly restrained when traveling by car.

  • Pack for your pets. Remember to pack supplies and food when traveling with animals. Pack any medications your pet takes, as well as health records. It’s also a good idea to take along a familiar bed, toy, or blanket to help your pet feel more comfortable in unfamiliar surroundings.

Did You Know?

Nearly six in 10 Americans drive with their dog in their vehicle at least once a month, according to a survey by pet product company Kurgo and AAA. Of those, nearly a third (29%) say they’ve been distracted by their dog while driving.

General pet safety tips for winter

Many of the weather hazards that are problematic for humans can cause dogs and cats difficulties, too. Take steps to protect your pets from winter-related health problems.

  • Keep them hydrated. Pets tend to get dry skin in the winter, just like humans. Make sure they get enough water during the winter months.

  • Use a leash when walking near water. If your neighborhood walks involve passing bodies of water, make sure your dog is secured with a leash so they don’t run onto any ice. And remember, many communities have leash laws intended to protect both pets and people.

  • Use pet-safe sidewalk salt. Regular sidewalk salt contains chemicals that can harm your pet’s feet. Switch to a pet-safe version or wipe their feet after a walk or a trip outside.

  • Keep antifreeze out of reach. Antifreeze has a sweet taste that may attract curious animals, but it’s highly toxic when ingested. Wipe up any spills in the garage or driveway, and keep supplies covered and stored away.

  • Don’t lock pets in cars. Just as leaving a pet locked in your car is harmful during the summer months, the same is true during the winter, especially in extreme temperatures.

Did You Know?

While your car can protect you and your pets from the elements, when you turn off the heater, the temperature inside a vehicle can fall quickly. The American Kennel Club notes that cars aren’t well insulated, so a car that’s not running can’t protect your pet from freezing temperatures.

What to do in case of emergency

Despite your best efforts, emergencies can happen. But a few proactive steps can ensure your pet gets the help they need quickly in case of an emergency.

  • Plan in advance. Research veterinary clinics and pet hospitals in areas where you travel with pets before arriving. Pay attention to special holiday hours.

  • Save your vet’s contact info. Store your vet’s number in your phone so it’s accessible when needed. While you’re at it, you should also save the number for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, 1 (888) 426-4435.

  • Have proper identification. Attaching an identification tag to your pet’s collar will make it easier to get them back if they sneak out during the holiday hustle. If they have a microchip, make sure it’s up to date with the latest information.

Consider buying a pet insurance plan

One way to protect your pets (and your wallet) is by buying pet insurance. Like other types of insurance, pet insurance can help cover medical expenses and unexpected emergencies. Pet insurance plans vary, offering a wide range of coverage and costs to fit different needs. Here are four benefits of pet insurance that can make it a wise investment.

  • Save money: Depending on your policy and provider, pet insurance may cover up to 70% or more of insurance claims. You can customize coverage to fit your budget and care needs.

  • You choose your preferred veterinarian: Unlike human health insurance, pet insurance policies allow you to visit any pet care provider. You can visit any licensed veterinarian or vet care facility.

  • Peace of mind: Pets are often as important as a human family member. Having pet insurance provides a level of protection and ensures care for your pets should they fall ill.

  • Improved care: Insurance allows you to afford advanced care, like tests and lab work, that you might not opt for when paying out of pocket.

Compare Quotes: Find a Pet Insurance Policy for Your Budget

Kevin Payne
Kevin Payne

Kevin Payne is a freelance writer and family travel and budget enthusiast behind His work has been featured in Forbes Advisor,, Bankrate, SlickDeals, Finance Buzz, The Ascent, Student Loan Planner, and more. Kevin lives in Cleveland, Ohio with his wife and four teenagers.