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Published: Nov 29, 2011

When decorating and prepping for the holiday season, pet owners will need to be extra cautious to ensure their dogs and cats stay safe during the winter months. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, the holidays tend to bring family and friends together to celebrate, share gifts, food and more, but owners need to keep common hazards out of their pet's reach in order to have the experience go smoothly.

One of the biggest holiday hazards to dogs is wrapping paper, particularly bows and ribbons. While bows and ribbons adorning a pet’s collar may look adorable, they are significant choking and strangling hazards and this practice should be avoided. In addition, VCA reports that chewing on these products may seem harmless, but dogs - especially puppies - can accidentally swallow them possibly resulting in an intestinal obstruction which could necessitate emergency surgery.

Another hazard is chocolates. Boxes of chocolates are a common gift and although tasty for humans, chocolate can be deadly to dogs. Chocolate can be fatal if a dog ingests a large amount of it, and it can cause side effects after eating just a little, so it's best to keep it high up and out of reach. Many holiday foods are very fatty or rich and best avoided in our canine companions for their best pet health.

One of the most popular holiday plants, the poinsettia, is also hazardous to dogs. VCA reports that the plant may cause serious irritation in a dog's mouth and stomach, though it's not fatal. Curious dogs may also snoop around the tree and often try to drink the tree water which may contain chemicals. An owner may need to consider a gate around the tree or some other obstacle to prevent their dog from getting too close.

Electrical cords from festive lights can also be dangerous, and owners are cautioned to keep them out of reach of their pets to avoid mishaps. All decorations, including the holiday tree, should be as “dog-proof” as possible. For example, edible decorations such as popcorn or cranberry strings should be avoided, glass ornaments which may cause lacerations if eaten should be kept high or avoided altogether and the tree should be properly secured to a wall or sturdy structure to avoid tipping caused by a rambunctious canine.