The holidays are a time for celebration. However, before you start celebrating, first make sure your pets are safe from holiday dangers. Here are some tips to keep in mind to ensure the safety of your pets during the holidays.


According to Kathy Wahlers at the Pet Poison Helpline, poinsettia plants get a bad rap, but they are only mildly toxic to pets. She says that holiday bouquets containing lilies, holly, or mistletoe are far more worrisome. Be sure to keep these plants well out of the reach of animals in your home or consider using artificial versions.

Lisa Acho Remorenko

“Lilies, including tiger, Asiatic, stargazer, Easter, and day lilies, are the most dangerous plants for cats,” said Dr. Ahna Brutlag, assistant direct of Pet Poison Helpline. “The ingestion of one to two leaves or flower petals is enough to cause sudden kidney failure in cats.” Other yuletide plants such as holly berries and mistletoe can also be toxic to pets and can cause gastrointestinal upset and even heart arrhythmias if ingested. One other common toxic plant used in wreaths is eucalyptus. I was guilty of forgetting this one. I recently purchased a live eucalyptus wreath from Trader Joe’s and hung it on my front door, not bothering to worry about its toxicity since it was hung outside. However, the leaves are starting to wilt and fall off when I open the front door, and I caught one of my cats playing with a leaf. While one leaf shouldn’t harm my cat, it’s worth paying attention to if you happen to have one of these wreaths!


Decorations such as tinsel, glass ornaments, and garlands can easily attract pets but are dangerous because they are choking hazards. Tinsel is especially tempting to cats, who see bright shiny strings as something to be played with. Although tinsel does not pose a poisoning risk, it can cause severe damage to a cat’s intestinal tract if swallowed. Ultimately, cats run the risk of severe injury to, or rupture of, their intestines, and treatment involves expensive abdominal surgery.

Electric decorations such as stringed lights can brighten a room, but unfortunately can also give your pets a shock should they chew on the wires. Keep decorations out of their reach, or at the very least, spray electrical cords with bitter-apple spray. Whether using a cut or live tree, keep the water stand covered to prevent accidents as the water for the live tree may contain fertilizers or bacteria. Avoid using aspirin in the water for your cut tree if you have a cat, as aspirin is highly toxic to cats.

Certain imported snow globes were found to contain antifreeze (ethylene glycol). One teaspoon of antifreeze when ingested by a cat, or a tablespoon for a dog (depending on her size), can be fatal. Signs of early poisoning include stumbling while walking, excessive thirst, and lethargy. While signs may seem to improve after eight to 12 hours, internal damage is actually worsening and crystals developing in the kidneys can result in acute kidney failure.

Food and Drink

Alcoholic beverages can be toxic to pets if ingested. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), because alcohol is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, it affects pets quickly. Ingestion of alcohol can cause dangerous drops in blood sugar, blood pressure, and body temperature. Intoxicated animals can experience seizures and respiratory failure. Foods containing grapes, raisins, and currants (such as fruitcake) can result in kidney failure in dogs. Chocolate and cocoa contain theobromine, a chemical highly toxic to dogs and cats. Ingestion in small amounts can cause vomiting and diarrhea, and large amounts can cause seizures and heart failure. Many sugarless gums and candies contain xylitol, a sweetener that is toxic to dogs. It causes a life-threatening drop in blood sugar and liver failure.


According to the ASPCA, one of the most common holiday-related emergencies is the consumption of human pharmaceuticals. Make sure all your medications are securely locked away from pets and children, and be sure to tell your guests to keep their meds zipped up and packed away, too.


The unusual commotion of the holiday season can be stressful on animals as well as humans. Put your pets in a quiet room or quiet area of the house when guests are visiting. Soothing music helps not only humans, but animals as well. If possible, put on a nice, relaxing CD to calm your pet. Even though we’re all busy around the holidays, don’t forget to give your pets some attention. Try to keep your pets on their regular eating and exercise schedules. Leave a note on the front door reminding visitors not to allow your pet to run out of the house. Nothing puts a damper on festivities like turning a holiday party into a search party.


Unless it’s absolutely necessary to travel with your pet, leave them at home. It’s best to find a friend or pet sitter to come to your home to take care of your pets. If you must travel with your pets, make sure they have all the required vaccinations and are wearing identification tags or are microchipped. If you’re traveling by car, be sure to secure your pets safely with a seatbelt harness or crate and make frequent stops, allowing your pets time to exercise and relieve themselves. Too many accidents happen in cargo areas, so if you must fly with your pets, it’s best to have them secured in a carrier underneath your seat. Make sure to be prepared at the airport. Animals traveling in carriers must be removed from those carriers when going through security. Make sure your pets have a harness and a leash to keep them from running and proper ID to ensure they get returned to you if something should happen.

By following these tips, both you and your pets will enjoy a happier and healthier holiday season!


County Animal Services is discounting all animal adoptions for the entire month of December. The discounts will be as follows:

• Cats over six months of age will cost $25

• Kittens under six months will cost $40, or you can adopt two kittens for $75

• Dog adoption fees will be reduced to $50

• Rabbit adoption fees will be $15.

Every adoptable animal has been medically screened, vaccinated, and spayed or neutered. There are more than a thousand animals awaiting adoption at Santa Barbara County Shelters. Visit a Santa Barbara County Shelter today!

• Santa Barbara Shelter, 5473 Overpass Road

• Lompoc Shelter, 1501 West Central Avenue

• Santa Maria Animal Center, 548 West Foster Road

Adoptable Pet of the Week


Bentley is an 18-month-old male Chihuahua mix who weighs just 8 pounds. He is playful, friendly, sweet, and energetic. He loves playing with other dogs but really loves human attention.

If Bentley sounds like the perfect dog for you, stop by the Santa Barbara County Animal Shelter, 5473 Overpass Road, Goleta, and complete a no-obligation adoption application.

Do you love dogs, but can’t have a pet? To donate or volunteer with K-9 PALS, the all-volunteer, nonprofit organization that pays for all the nonroutine medical expenses and prescription foods for the S.B. County shelter dogs, call (805) 570-0415 or link to


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