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Kids And Pets: Tips For A Safe And Peaceful Holiday
December 15, 2023

Happy Holidays! The next few weeks are going to be pretty busy. For many kids, the holiday season is the best time of the year. The holidays can be pretty hectic for our furry friends as well. Kids and pets make an adorable combination, and they certainly take some adorable photos. In fact, they may be the cutest pairing ever. However, there is also a lot of room for mishaps, especially with very young children. A local Oradell, NJ veterinarian offers some insight on helping kids and pets get through the season smoothly in this article.

Choosing Decorations That Are Kid And Pet Safe

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

Anything small and sharp should be considered a choking hazard. (As a general rule of thumb, 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.

The Tree: Decorating Safety Tips For Kids And Pets

The tree itself can also pose a hazard. If you have a real tree, just use plain water in the bowl. The tree store may have given you a packet of ‘food’, but that could contain chemicals that are not safe for your pet. In fact, you may even want to cover the bowl, as it could contain traces of pesticides, herbicides, or fire retardants. It’s also important to pick up fallen needles and tinsel, as these are also choking hazards. They can also cause serious internal injuries if swallowed.

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.

For additional protection, you may want to put a puppy gate around the tree.

Caution With Seasonal Plants

Those pretty holiday plants add a special, seasonal touch to any room or house. Unfortunately, many of them are toxic to both children and pets. Some of the more dangerous ones include poinsettias, holly, ivy, mistletoe, and peace lilies, which are deadly to cats. If you choose any of these, keep them in spots neither pets nor kids can reach.

Keeping Gifts Sorted

Many popular children’s gifts are dangerous to pets. Anything with small pieces, such as batteries, small accessories, toy figurines, action figures, game pieces, and/or other bits and pieces, is unsafe. Keep these things out of paws’ reach. Another thing to consider is the fact that our canine pals often can’t resist plushies. You don’t want Fido eyeing that cute teddy bear you got your niece: that could lead to scuffles. (Note for people with kitties: After everyone has finished wrapping their gifts, remember to give Fluffy some of the empty boxes.)


That delicious holiday food is central to many celebrations. Very young children can choke on things like hard candies. However, in this case, it’s usually the pets that are in more danger. Many of our favorite foods, such as chocolate, garlic, onion, grapes, and raisins, are poisonous to Fido and Fluffy. Meat on the bone is also unsafe, as are raw dough, avocado, anything with seeds or pips, and items that contain xylitol and/or a lot of salt, sugar, or fat.

One thing to be careful of is the fact that kids may innocently try to share ‘goodies’ with their furry pals, often without realizing what is and isn’t safe for pets to eat. This innocent mistake can lead to tragic results. Keep a very close eye on little ones at the dinner table. You may also want to put Fido in another area during meals.

Keep Things Calm

Man’s Best Friend tends to take his door doggy duties very seriously. Fido may get a bit too excited when it comes to greeting visitors. Small kids can get frightened of an excited pup. Before your company arrives, take your canine pal for a vigorous walk and play session to help burn off those zoomies. If your dog is super excitable, take him outside or to a larger room for meet and greets.

Reward Good Behavior

Make sure that your canine pal knows basic commands, such as Sit, Stay, and Come. Children can be taught to gently offer a treat, and shown how to hold it the right way: palms up, fingers outstretched. As for Fluffy, you can offer catnip and compliments as a reward for good petiquette.

It’s also important to teach little ones the proper way to pet our furry friends. Rule #1 is to never force attention on a pet. If your furry friend seems uneasy, give them space, and make sure they have a comfy space to retreat to. You may also need to teach them to always go in the direction of Fluffy and Fido’s fur, and avoid pulling tails, ears, whiskers, or paws.

Let Fido Smell Things

Our canine friends get a lot of their information about the world from their cute noses. If your little guests are still using things like strollers or car seats, let Fido smell these things first. However, you will want to ask guests to keep personal items, such as shoes and purses, in spots your pet can’t reach.

Err On The Side Of Caution

Children are more often bitten by dogs than older humans. That is probably in part because of their size, but also because they sometimes make Fido uneasy. Toddlers sometimes move quickly, and they can be pretty loud, especially if they’re having one of their ‘terrible twos’ moments. Some kids’ toys may also look quite a lot like pet toys, which can lead to confusion and even scuffles.

Always supervise interactions between pets and children carefully, and keep a close eye out for even the slightest signs of unease.

Provide Distractions

You may want to offer pets another way to entertain themselves. Get Fido and Fluffy some fun new toys, and entertain them with a fun play session.

Guest Room Rules

Are your visitors staying overnight? Ask them to keep the guest room door closed. This can help prevent mishaps, such as Fluffy sleeping in their suitcase or Fido dozing off on their bed.

FInal Safety Tips

Some pets will do better with children than others. If you know or suspect that your dog may be fearful, reactive, and/or aggressive, take a few extra precautions. Spend lots of time with Fido, and work on any issues he has. Crate training can be very helpful, though the crate will do more harm than good if your canine buddy sees it as a punishment. Ask your Oradell, NJ veterinarian for more tips.

Peace On Earth

Safety warnings aside, it’s important to understand that kids and pets can form very strong bonds. Many animals are naturally tolerant—and even protective of—little ones. Just follow some basic precautions, and keep a close eye on things. You may be in for some super cute moments. After all, there are few sights more charming than seeing a little kid napping with Fido or Fluffy. 

Happy Holidays from Animal Care of Oradell! Please do not hesitate to contact us with questions about your pet’s health or care. As your local Oradell, NJ animal clinic, we’re here to help!