Locally-Owned in Oakdale and St. Paul, Minnesota

A Pet Parent’s Guide to Holiday Guests

family eating around a Thanksgiving meal, holiday guests, pet parents, pet safety, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota

With the winter holiday season approaching, it’s important to keep pets safe if you plan to host a gathering or bring your pet along to a get-together. Back in November of 2022, Dr. Chelsea Wolf, one of our emergency veterinarians, joined us for a Facebook Live to discuss the dos and don’ts of a successful holiday gathering with pets! You can watch the replay of that video or read a summary of Dr. Wolf’s advice below.  

Get Permission 

If you’re a guest and don’t need to bring your pet, it’s best to leave them at home. In many cases, pets are happier at home than attending festivities. If you’ll be gone for longer than 6-8 hours, consider asking a neighbor or friend to check in on them instead of bringing them along.  

If your pet has medical or otherwise emergent issues that preclude them being left at home, always ask the host for permission prior to bringing your pet along. You should also take the time to discuss other pets or any children that will be attending and then determine a plan to ensure a smooth and safe day for all. 


If you are the guest, make sure you use a kennel or crate to safely transport your pet. Find more tips for traveling with your pet here. 

two dogs playing in the snow, holiday guests, pet parents, pet safety, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota 


Whether you are the guest or host, here’s a breakdown of steps to take to keep pets safe: 

  • Dogs and cats should wear a collar and ID tags. We also recommend microchipping your pet. After all, it only takes one second for a pet to bolt out an open door. 
  • Don’t introduce dogs to each other at the front door or in the entryway – instead, have them meet outside. It’s even better if they can meet a few times before the event. 
  • Keep purses and bags out of pets’ reach. This will help prevent a xylitol toxicity (from sugarless gum) or a chocolate toxicity if Grandma keeps candy in her purse!  
  • Place shoes in an entryway closet to avoid torn-up shoes or pets swallowing pieces that could lead to an obstruction. 
  • Don’t provide bones, special toys, or feed dogs their meals in the same room; they may get territorial and aggressive when it comes to these items. 
  • To prevent a hazard, the host should remove any dangerous décor like potpourri, lit candles, or anything fragile. 
  • If your dog is going outside for a potty break, always check the perimeter. Make sure there are no holes in the fence or other potential hazards like ponds or wildlife. We recommend walking your dog on a leash or using a tie- out or long-lead hooked up to the deck. Also, consider having your dog wear a light-up collar if the yard is large or the event takes place after dark.
  • Remind all guests not to feed the pets anything without permission.  

dog eyeing turkey on kitchen countertop, holiday guests, pet parents, pet safety, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota

Common Dinner Dangers 

One of the best ways to prevent your pet from eating anything toxic or hazardous is to keep pets in closed-off rooms while food is being prepared or eaten. This is especially true if your pet likes to beg, and there are kids dropping food around the table. 

Also, NEVER let pets free-roam the house while people are eating around the dining room table. While everyone is distracted, pets often get into trouble – like counter-surfing in the kitchen! 

Common food dangers include: 

kid with kitten and dog, holiday guests, pet parents, pet safety, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota

Small Kids 

If you are a guest and your pet has not been around small children before, it’s best to leave your pet at home. Conversely, if you are hosting and don’t know how your pet will respond to the crowd and younger kids, consider placing your pet in a closed-off room or crate. By all means, prior to the holiday, training and socializing your dog is a great idea, but a large family dinner isn’t the time to begin the process!  

If your pet is well-trained and socialized, and there are small children in attendance, talk with them about how to calmly approach the pet and if there is anything the pet doesn’t like.  

Kids can be very quick-moving though, or they may not know any better and pull a tail or pet a sensitive area. Also, a child’s loud voice or behavior may startle your pet and cause them to bite or scratch. This is why it’s important supervise all animal/child interactions and be educated on bite prevention. Watch your pet’s body language closely for any signal to remove the kids from the pet’s personal space, or vice versa.

cat sleeping, Christmas tree lights behind cat, holiday guests, pet parents, pet safety, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota  

We hope this guide leads to a thorough conversation with your house guests or holiday host so that everyone can have a safe day! If your pet does experience an emergency over the holidays, both our Oakdale and St. Paul ERs are open 24/7. 

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