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Harsh winter weather and the hectic holiday season can be stressful for many people, but what about your furry, four-footed companion? The season's festivities can be both enjoyable and safe for your pet as long as you keep your canine's health and well being in mind. Following are tips from the American Kennel Club for a safe and happy holiday season.


  • Though humans enjoy cookies, chocolate, raisins and other sweets, these rich treats are dangerous for your canine. Chocolate contains Theobromine, which can be harmful and sometimes fatal.

  • While we may indulge in holiday libations, no dog should ever have access to alcohol.

  • Other food items that can be "a recipe for disaster" include onions, which are often a part of holiday cooking and destroy a dog's red blood cells and can lead to anemia. In addition, poultry bones can splinter and cause intestinal blockages.

  • Daily routines change as holiday baking, shopping and get-togethers become a priority. During this time, try to keep your dog's normal routine with regular feeding, walking and playtime.

The Great Outdoors

  • If your dog is accustomed to eating outside, pick up his metal bowls, since his tongue can freeze to metal when the temperature drops. Change water and food dishes to ceramic or plastic, fill them with warm water and check them often, breaking out the ice when necessary.

  • Dogs exposed to the cold for long periods are at risk of hypothermia. Small and shorthaired breeds should wear sweaters when outside. If your dog appears to be cold, or is shivering or shaking, take him inside immediately.

  • Ice-melting chemicals and salt on sidewalks can irritate a dog's footpads. Consider booties in cold weather or deep snow for all dogs, large and small.

  • Pets are attracted to the sweet taste of anti-freeze (ethylene glycol), which is lethal, even in small doses. Check driveways and wipe up any leaks immediately.

"Bows" of Holly

  • Make sure your tree is steady and secure in a flat, wide base. To ensure a topple-free tree, anchor it with fishing line tied to drapery rods or the wall.

  • A simple wag of your dog's tail can bring down decorations on low tree ranches. Place small or glass ornaments on top branches.

  • Tree adornments, candles and other decorations can cause choking or severe intestinal problems if swallowed. Avoid decorating your tree with strands of popcorn, or other items that might tempt your dog's appetite. Tinsel and angel hair can lead to upset stomach and possible intestinal blockage if ingested.

  • When decorating with holiday lights, keep in mind that your dog may try to chew the wires, causing electrocution. Tape wires to the wall or sides of the house or room.

  • Both cats and dogs may find the tree water tempting to drink, so be sure to use pet friendly preservatives in the tree's water.

  • Immediately dispose of wrapping paper, bows, yarn and curling ribbons after presents are opened to prevent ingestion.

  • Poinsettias, holly and mistletoe may make your dog sick if he chews on the leaves, flowers or berries. Place holiday plants out of Fido's reach.

  • Not every guest at your holiday party, especially young children, may be familiar with your dog's habits. When entertaining, consider confining your dog securely in one area of the house, with a radio or TV on and soft lighting.

Under the Tree

  • Think twice when considering a dog as a gift. Though nothing tugs harder at heartstrings than a cute, cuddly puppy, every adorable bundle of fur is a lifetime responsibility. Dogs can live up to 20 years (depending on the breed) and it's crucial that you know the recipient can care for the pet. This means providing plenty of exercise, training, veterinary care and – most importantly – lots of love and attention.

  • Instead of giving a puppy as a present, consider gift wrapping dog toys or supplies such as a leash, food or bowl to symbolize the bundle of joy to come. Talk to your loved one about the commitment, then research the different breeds that will best suit your lifestyle, and choose a responsible breeder.

  • Finally, instead of another new toy, send a small contribution in honor of Fido to a deserving organization, such as your dog's parent club, breed rescue group, or canine health charity. For more information, visit