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Kids And Pets: Tips For A Safe And Peaceful Holiday

December 15, 2023

Season’s Greetings! The next few weeks are going to be pretty busy for many of us, with all of those holiday gatherings and events. For many children, the holiday season is the highlight of the year. Kids and pets make an adorable combination, and can quickly become best buddies. However, there is also a lot of room for mishaps, mischief, and miscommunication, especially with very young children. In this article from Arapahoe Animal Hospital, your Boulder, CO vet, serving Louisville and surrounding areas, a local vet offers some insightful tips on helping kids and pets get through the season smoothly.

Decorations: Safety Protocols For Both Kids And Pets

Those pretty holiday decorations can be dangerous for both kids and pets. For the most part, the same general safety protocols should apply to both.

First and foremost: any items that are small and/or sharp should be considered a choking hazard. Anything that is smaller than the hole in a toilet paper roll should be considered unsafe. Ropy or stringy items are also a hazard. That includes things like lights, tinsel, garlands, popcorn strands, and ribbons. Fragile ornaments are also a concern.

Candles and fireplaces are dangerous for both children and pets. If you have a fireplace, use a thick grate in front of it. Keep candles in high, secure spots, where your furry friend can’t reach them.

Then there’s the tree. Decorating carefully can help here. Don’t put anything small or fragile on the bottom part of the tree. Shiny, breakable objects should be on the top portion of the tree, as should anything with ropes or strings. (We’ll leave Fluffy’s annual tradition of climbing the tree for another blog.) 

Be Careful With Holiday Plants

Those pretty seasonal plants can add a special, seasonal touch to any room or house. Unfortunately, many of them are toxic to both kids and pets. (Hopefully, the kids aren’t eating houseplants, but it’s best to be aware, just in case. Some toddlers will chew on anything and everything.) Some of the more dangerous ones include poinsettias, holly, ivy, mistletoe, and peace lilies, which are deadly to kitties. If you get any of these, keep them in high, secure spots. Ask your Boulder, CO vet for more information on safe and unsafe plants.

Keep Kids And Pets Holiday GIfts Separate

Many kids’ gifts are dangerous to pets. Anything with small pieces, such as batteries, small accessories, or other bits and pieces, is unsafe. If you have a dog, keep Fido in mind when buying stuffed animals. As we all know, our canine pals often can’t resist plushies. You don’t want your pup eyeing your niece’s new teddy bear, as that could lead to scuffles. Keep kids’ gifts out of paws’ reach. (It’s also a good idea to distract your four-legged pal by offering a few new toys for them to occupy themselves with.) 

Seasonal Foods: What Is And Isn’t Safe For Pets 

Those delicious meals are central to many celebrations, but can also be unsafe. Young children can choke on things like hard candies, nuts, or that fruitcake your aunt insists on making every year. However, for the most part, Fluffy and Fido are at higher risk here. Many of our favorite foods, such as garlic, onion, chocolate, avocado, grapes, and raisins, are poisonous to our animal companions. Meat on the bone is also unsafe, as are raw dough, anything with seeds or pips, and items that contain xylitol and/or a lot of salt, sugar, or fat.

Keep in mind that kids may try to share ‘goodies’ with their furry pals, often without realizing what is and isn’t safe for them. This innocent mistake can have tragic consequences. Older kids can be informed about this, but you’ll need to keep a very close eye on little ones.


Some things will depend on whether these are your pets and your kids, or your pets and someone else’s kids, or your kids and others’ pets. With the latter two, you’ll need to be careful with greetings. First impressions are a huge deal to our animal friends! 

Our canine pals get much of their information about the world through their cute noses. Help with introductions by letting Fido sniff the little ones’ hands. Supervise this carefully. If your dog appears uneasy or agitated, separate them and As for Fluffy? She’ll introduce herself when she’s good and ready. Don’t force it!

Another note on guests? We recommend asking them to keep personal items, such as shoes and purses, in spots your canine buddy can’t reach.

Reward Good Behavior

Manners are important on both sides here. Make sure Fido knows basic commands, such as Sit, Stay, and Come. Children can be taught to gently offer a treat, though they may need to be shown how to hold it … palms up, fingers outstretched.

It’s also important to teach children the proper way to pet our furry friends. The biggest thing is to never force attention on a dog or cat. You may also need to explain that you should always go in the direction of Fluffy and Fido’s fur when petting them, and avoid pulling tails, ears, whiskers, or paws.

Separate Spaces

If your furry companion seems uneasy, make sure they have a comfy space to retreat to. For a cat, this may mean a kitty condo, or even a spot under a bed. For Fido, that may mean his crate, or perhaps a pet proofed room that’s separated by a baby gate. 

Err On The Side Of Caution

Safety should always come first. Always supervise interactions between pets and children closely, and watch for even the slightest signs of unease. 

It’s worth mentioning that children are more often bitten by dogs than older humans. There are a few factors that come into play here. Kids’ smaller size is one reason. Plus, many children can move quickly, and they often have loud voices that make Fido uneasy. Their toys may also look quite a lot like pet toys, which can lead to confusion and even scuffles. Manners also comes into play: you don’t want your little buddies finding out the hard way that Fluffy hates having her tail pulled. 

One thing that may help? Tire your furry pal out with a vigorous walk and play session before company arrives. This will help him burn off those zoomies.

Larger dogs do pose more of a risk than small breeds, but it’s really Fido’s personality that matters most. Some pups are bombproof, and will barely bat an eye if a little one falls right on top of them. Others are more high-strung, and have much shorter fuses. Keep in mind that even a Chihuahua can cause an injury with a bite. 

A final word of caution: if you know or suspect that your dog may be fearful, reactive, and/or aggressive, you’ll need to take extra precautions. We’d also advise using extra care with newly-adopted dogs, as you may not know their pet peeves yet. Ask your Boulder, CO vet for more tips.Happy Holidays from all of us at Arapahoe Animal Hospital, your Boulder, CO vet, serving Louisville and surrounding areas. Please feel free to contact us with questions about your pet’s health or care.