Click here to learn more.
Vetstreet. All rights reserved.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
Here’s a question that I get asked often this time of the year: How do you keep all those pets of yours out of trouble?
It's a great question when you’ve got tinsel, glittery ornaments and all manner of holiday trappings decking your halls, walls and — most menacingly of all — your holiday tree (if you happen to have one).
The answer to this perfectly reasonable query: I’m
really into decorating my home with all kinds of oddball stuff — even more so during the holidays — so I’m well aware that the secret to keeping pets out of trouble is to understand that there is no 100 percent risk-free environment. You also need to assess and prioritize the risks your household presents, identify your pets’ risk-taking tendencies and work to strategically minimize the most dangerous risks to individual pets.
You can make yourself crazy trying to pet-proof your home for every possible risk — and you’re unlikely to get rid of every possible danger. That’s just life. I’ve seen
dogs drown in their water bowls and choke on perfectly “safe”
collars and restraints. But I understand why it may be useful to hear what a veterinarian might do to pet-proof her own abode. So here’s my list of dos and don'ts.
Put the tree in a tall pot or up on a high pedestal to make it harder for pets to tip the tree over, drink the water (sometimes cited as a toxic issue) or take an interest in low-hanging decorations. (It goes without saying that all decorations should be out of an animal's reach.)
I’ve used a tall pot for the past couple of years, which brings me to my next tip.
Whatever decorations you put up, go the extra mile and make them inaccessible to pets. Whether it’s lodging the tree in a sturdy position (a standard tree stand will not work if you’ve got a sufficiently motivated
cat) or tacking wreaths and garlands securely, the idea is to keep stuff in a spot that won’t be accessible to your playful pets.
Why take the risk with real mistletoe (reportedly toxic),
yarn, ribbon or tinsel?
I use silver duct tape in place of ribbons, 100 percent nontoxic native trees in place of pines (pine oil has been reported to cause liver damage in some pets) and recyclable paper ornaments (origami is fun to learn). Sure, paper isn't as shiny, but it’s classy — and one less thing to tempt pets.
Pet proofing for the holidays isn’t just about pets. Sometimes the goal is to keep humans from suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous urine. I have a
dog who (this has been confirmed by multiple trainers) cannot be
housebroken. Anything low — like a holiday tree — must be raised, so he doesn’t decide it’s worth
This time of year, I’m even more of a sucker for crates — and I’m
always a stickler when it comes to
crating my dogs for safety reasons. To keep my cuties from running amok and headlong into danger, I keep them close. Since I spend 80 percent of my waking life in the kitchen, I drag the crates into that space and let them watch me do my thing.
I’ve had two pets chew through them, and I’ve seen plenty of burned mouths as a result of electric shock, so I’m vigilant about
keeping pets away from cords. Covering them with heavy-duty plastic liners helps, but during the holidays I’ve taken to using twinkly indoor lights powered by batteries. There’s only so much damage a pet can do chewing through these.
Safety is all well and good, but here’s where I draw the line: Chocolate is a holiday must-have for me. So I'm very careful with the dark chocolate that's included in probably 20 percent of my homemade holiday treats. Sure,
chocolate is toxic, but here’s where knowing when to be careful is more than half the battle: In all my years of pet keeping and dark chocolate wielding, I’ve never had an incident.
And I don’t plan to.
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Take our breed quiz to find your next pet.
Get all the best pet news and information sent right to your inbox!
Thank you for subscribing!
After rescuers got a 150-pound stranded
sea lion into a carrier, kind beachgoers
volunteered to help them lift it.
Whether your dog is ball-obsessed or
strong and powerful, here’s how to match
him with the perfect kind of exercise.
We’re sharing tips for helping prevent
perils like heatstroke and drowning, plus
what to do if a disaster does…
People get goats for companionship,
milk or even keeping the weeds trimmed.
Here's how to best care for them.
The medium-size Mudi is a sheepdog
who tends to make an intelligent, active
and easy-to-groom companion.
Parasites are no fun for dogs. Learn how
to protect your canine from heartworms,
hookworms, whipworms and more.
A dog diagnosed with the dangerous parasite may have to take antibiotics, get drug injections and stop exercising.
Check out our collection of more than 250 videos about pet training, animal behavior, dog and cat breeds and more.
Wonder which dog or cat best fits your lifestyle? Our new tool will narrow down more than 300 breeds for you.
Visit HealthyPet magazine for interviews with pet-loving celebrities, health advice from our experts, training tips and…
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.