Published on December 21, 2023

City of San Antonio Animal Care Services Department   

Animal Care Services offers tips to enjoy a happy, healthy, and safe holiday with your companion animals


SAN ANTONIO (December 21, 2023) – Now that the holidays are here. people will be spending more time indoors entertaining. Residents may want to include their pets in the merrymaking. but that could mean trouble without a few elementary precautions. The holidays can be merry and bright for our four-legged friends by following these simple tips from San Antonio Animal Care Services (SAACS):

Holiday Pet Behavior

  • Pay attention to your companion animal. Pets are often ignored in the rush and excitement of the holidays. This can lead to mischief.

  • Unsure about how your pet will react to all the new faces in the house? Pets can act aggressively and even bite or scratch out of fear. Create a safe, comfortable place for your pet to relax. Make sure you put out plenty of fresh food, water, and toys. 

  • Play with your dog or cat at least twice a day for twenty minutes. A tired pet is less likely to make a mess or do something “off limits.”

  • Use baby gates to cut off access to “restricted” areas.

  • Let your pet enjoy the holidays too with some new toys or treats. Not all pets will tolerate a festive sweater, holiday hat, or even an embellished collar. 

Common Food Dangers

  • Holiday goodies should be kept away from your pet. Chocolate, raisins, onions, garlic, macadamia nuts, and candies or gums with the artificial sweetener Xylitol are all dangerous and potentially fatal to pets.

  • Giving alcohol to a pet–even a sip or two–is dangerous and could be fatal.

  • Remember, poultry bones are a choking hazard, and they can splinter.

  • It may be tempting but do not give your pet food off the table. Holiday foods like tamales, ham, or menudo can be hard on your animal’s stomach and may lead to diarrhea and vomiting. No one wants to spend the holidays cleaning up pet messes or worse, taking their pet to the emergency clinic!

Other Holiday Hazards

  • Common holiday plants like lilies, mistletoe, and holly berries are very poisonous to pets. Poinsettias are not as toxic but could cause stomach distress if ingested.

  • Forgo the picture of your pet covered in gift wrap and keep them away from your stocking haul. Ribbons, foil wrappers, and cellophane candy wrappers can be a choking hazard and cause intestinal blockage if swallowed.

  • Twinkling lights can be a major attraction for a curious pet. Live trees often have fertilizer, flocking, or other additives that can make your pet sick. Use decorative gates or other means to keep your pets away from the tree to prevent climbing and other hazards.

If you suspect your animal may have ingested something toxic, get your pet to a vet immediately or call the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (there may be a charge).