Keeping Fido and Felix Healthy for the Holidays

Morning Show Guest: Sandy Ellington, R.H.Ed.
Health Educator…Environmental Health Division
Guilford County Department of Public Health

Keeping your family safe during the holidays includes keeping your furry family members from harm as well. Following the tips below will help keep your pets safe and healthy during this season.

  • Keep holiday plants, such as holly, mistletoe, poinsettias and lilies out of reach. These plants are poisonous to both people and animals.
  • Keep pet areas free and clear of pine needles, which can puncture holes in a pet’s intestines if swallowed or ingested.
  • Tape down cords and plugs of holiday lights and other fixtures to avoid shocks, burns or other serious injuries. Unplug lights when you are not at home.
  • Anchor Christmas trees to the ceiling with a string to keep them from falling on pets.
  • Do not let pets drink the holiday tree water. Some may contain fertilizer or bacteria from stagnant water. Buy tree preservatives that are nontoxic. Do not put aspirin in the water. Your pet’s life and health could be at risk from drinking aspirin-laced water.
  • Block your Christmas tree so that your pet cannot tip it. Use sticky mats, crunchy aluminum foil or pennies in a plastic drink bottle balanced on the bottom limbs of the tree to create noise if your pet jumps on the tree.
  • Hang tinsel up out of the reach of pets. If pets eat tinsel, it can potentially block their intestines.
  • Keep all ornaments or toxic decorations out of the reach of pets. Ingestion of ornament pieces, plastic, cloth, artificial snow or bubbling lights might cause choking hazards or intestinal blockages, which would have to be removed surgically. Shards from broken ornaments may also injure paws, mouths or other parts of your pets’ body.
  • Keep candles on high shelves where pets cannot knock them over. Use fireplace screens to avoid burns.
  • Have a retreat in your home which is safe and comfortable for your pet. Holiday guests and more activities may be stressful for your pets and trigger illness or intestinal upset. Make sure that your pets are wearing current identification tags in case they escape out a door when your guests come and go.
  • Take the proper amount of time to care for your pets. Keep feeding and exercise on a regular schedule for your pets.
  • Do not let your guests give your pets human foods. Human foods can cause serious health problems for your pets, especially foods such as meats, gravies, poultry skins, bones, chocolate and alcohol.
  • Keep pets away from gift wrapping areas. Ingesting wrapping paper, string, plastic or cloth could cause intestinal blockages that might require surgical removal. Pets have been injured by scissors and other items left on floors and tables.
  • Keep pets away from the garbage. Make sure all containers are properly closed.
  • If you suspect your pet as eaten something toxic or ingested anything other than food, call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center’s 24 hour emergency hotline at 1-888-4-ANI-HELP.
  • Check all smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and other safety devices and replace batteries if necessary. When batteries run low, these detectors emit alert or alarm noises at sound frequencies that can be painful and frightening to pets. If you are not home, your pets must endure the sounds until you return, which could be traumatic. Always keep fresh batteries in those detectors.

Following these simple safety tips can keep your pets safe and prevent your holidays from turning into disasters for your animals. For more information, call the Guilford County Department of Public Health at 641-7777 or visit

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