Kids And Pets: Tips For A Safe And Peaceful Holiday

Season’s Greetings! The next few weeks are going to be pretty busy for many of us. For children, the holiday season is the highlight of the year. We also love seeing cute seasonal pictures of kids and pets! While Fluffy and Fido can make great cuddle buddies and playmates for kids, there is also a lot of room for mishaps, mischief, and miscommunication, especially with very young children. A local Ellicott City, MD vet offers some insightful tips on helping kids and pets get through the season smoothly in this article.

Decorations: Safety Issues For Kids And Pets

Those pretty holiday decorations can be dangerous for both kids and pets. For the most part, the same general petproofing protocols 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 for pets.) Ropy or stringy items are also a hazard. That includes things like lights, tinsel, garlands, popcorn strands, and ribbons.

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. 

Candles and fireplaces are dangerous for both children and pets. Keep candles in high, secure spots, where neither your furry friend or your tiny human buddy can get to them. If you have a fireplace, use a thick grate in front of the fireplace. Ask your veterinarian for more information.

Holiday plants add a special, seasonal touch to any room or house. Unfortunately, many of them are toxic to both children and pets. This is always a concern with our furry pals. For kids, this is of course more of a problem with toddlers, as hopefully the older ones won’t be eating the houseplants. 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 high, secure spots. Ask your Ellicott City, MD for more tips on pet safety … many will also apply to children.

Food Safety For Kids And Pets

Food is another possible concern. Very young children can choke on things like hard candies. However, in this case it’s pets that are in more danger. Many of our favorite foods, such as chocolate, garlic, onion, grapes, and raisins, are poisonous to our animal companions. 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. Ask your Ellicott City, MD veterinarian for more information on this.

One reason for concern is the fact that kids will sometimes try to share ‘goodies’ with their furry pals, often without realizing what is and isn’t safe for them. This innocent mistake can lead to tragic results. Older kids may understand this, but you’ll need to keep a very close eye on little ones.

Keep Things Calm For Introductions

FIrst impressions are very important! Dogs and cats both get much of their information about the world through their cute noses. If the kids are small enough to still need strollers or car seats, let Fido smell those first. Then, allow your pup to sniff the little ones’ hands. Keep a close eye on things here. If Fido seems uneasy or agitated, separate the two. 

Our canine buddies tend to take their door doggy duties very seriously. Fido may get a bit too excited when it comes to greeting people. Small kids can get frightened, and may even get knocked over. Take your pooch for a vigorous walk and play session to help burn off those zoomies before your company arrives. If your furry bff is super excitable, you may want to bring him outside or to a larger room for those meet and greets.

As for cats, well, Fluffy will introduce herself when she’s ready. Don’t force it!

Holiday Gifts: Safety Concerns For Kids And Pets

Many popular children’s gifts are dangerous to pets. Anything with small pieces, such as action figures, dolls’ clothes, batteries, small accessories, or other bits and pieces, is unsafe. If you have a dog, keep Fido in mind before buying stuffed animals. Our canine buddies often can’t resist plushies. You don’t want your pup honing in on the stuffed polar bear you got your nephew. That could lead to scuffles. (Note for people with kitties: after everyone has finished wrapping their gifts, remember to give Fluffy some empty boxes.)

Encourage Good Behavior And Petiquette

Good manners and petiquette can make a huge difference. Make sure Fido knows basic commands, such as Sit, Stay, and Come. It’s also important to teach kids the proper way to pet our furry friends. (Always go in the direction of their fur, and avoid pulling tails, ears, or whiskers.) The biggest thing is to make sure they know to never force attention on Fido or Fluffy. If your furry companion seems uneasy, make sure they have a comfy space to retreat to. 

Children can be taught to gently offer a treat, but might have to be shown how to hold it (palms up, fingers outstretched.)

Remember: tired pets are good pets. Help your furry buddy burn off those zoomies with a vigorous play session before company arrives. 

Err On The Side Of Caution

Safety first! Supervise interactions between pets and children carefully, and watch for even the slightest signs of unease. 

It’s important to know that children are more often bitten by dogs than older humans. That may well be in part because of their size, but also because they sometimes move quickly, and can be pretty loud. At some stages, their toys look a lot like pet toys, which can lead to confusion and even scuffles. 

Dogs are the bigger safety concern here, though cats can still cause injuries with those sharp claws. Children can also harm smaller animals by holding or picking them up wrong. (They can also cause injuries by falling on them, though there really aren’t many foolproof ways to prevent that.)


Some dogs and children will do better than others. Larger dogs of course are a bigger risk than small ones, but it’s really Fido’s personality that matters most. Some pooches are bombproof, and will barely bat an eye if a toddler falls right on top of them, tries to ride them like a horse, or uses them as a pillow. Other dogs are more high-strung, and have much shorter fuses. However, any dog can bite if threatened, and even a Pomeranian bite can result in injury.


Of course, every situation is a bit different. If your feline pal wants to sleep in your eight-year old’s lap as they’re reading or using their new tablet, it’s probably safe to say you have a really cute photo opp on your hands, rather than a safety risk. If you have kids and pets, and your aunt is bringing her Pomeranian, you probably don’t have too much cause for concern. A large, intact male dog with a toddler is a very different situation, and one that would need extremely careful monitoring. Use your judgment.  


Hopefully this goes without saying, but if your dog is fearful, reactive, and/or aggressive, you’ll need to take some extra precautions. We also recommend being super careful with newly adopted pups, as you may not be familiar with Fido’s quirks and pet peeves yet.

Be sure to enjoy these special moments. Pets and kids 

Happy Holidays! Please reach out to us with questions about your pet’s health or care. As your local Ellicott City, MD  animal clinic, we’re here to help!

Comments are closed.