With the holidays upon us, I thought I'd share a recently published magazine article I wrote about pet safety that has some good tips to keep in mind from Thanksgiving through New Year's. After all, our pets are a part of the family, too, and they've been entrusted into our care.
By Hana Haatainen Caye
Ahh…the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Bright lights. Yummy food. Presents and parties. What could possibly go wrong? Well, for the family pet, lots of things! All those aforementioned holiday accoutrements might be spectacular for people, but they can be dangerous, toxic and even life-threatening to your four-legged friends. Keep your pets safe and happy during the holidays by heeding these oh-so-important safety tips.
Resist the temptation to give your pup people food.
All those luscious holiday goodies are nearly impossible to resist, especially for drooling Fido. But don’t give in to his sad, puppy dog eyes! A great many of your favorite holiday treats pose a threat to his health and could be fatal. Raw or undercooked meats and eggs can cause E. coli or Salmonella infections. Turkey and most other meat bones can become jagged and, if swallowed, cause lacerations in his intestinal tract. Chocolate and macadamia nuts are considered toxic, and can make your pet ill. According to the ASPCA, you should also avoid feeding your pets coffee, caffeine, alcohol, avocado, grapes, raisins, yeast dough, xylitol, onions, garlic, chives, milk and salt. If you absolutely cannot resist giving your pet special treats as you nibble on a cookie or two, keep some healthy pet treats in a jar nearby and give him that instead. He won’t even know the difference.
Keep trash safely secured.
With all the extra goodies filling up the trashcan, your pet will be tempted to do some “dumpster diving.” Prevent this by properly securing your wastebaskets and garbage cans with lids or in an area closed off to your pets completely. It’s also advisable to clean up toys and gift wrap immediately, as your pet might be tempted to gobble up small plastic pieces or bows, which can cause choking and intestinal obstructions.
Give your pet a place to get away.
Stress and anxiety can be an issue for many dogs and cats when faced with a house full of visitors. All that excitement can trigger illness, intestinal upset and erratic behavior. If you plan on having lots of guests coming and going, isolate your pets in a room or crate during the party, away from all the commotion. Better yet, consider boarding them in a kennel for the night. You can also help reduce your pet’s stress by keeping it on a regular feeding and exercise schedule.
Deck the halls, not the floor.
Decorations are another holiday staple that can create real problems for your pets. When swallowed, ribbon can cause an intestinal obstruction. Low positioned candles can burn a wagging tail, or worse yet, get knocked over and start a fire. Snow globes often contain antifreeze. If broken, a pet may lap up the liquid, with fatal results. Holiday plants and flowers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, hibiscus, holly and mistletoe are pretty, but they’re also poisonous. Keep these and all other decorations safely out of your pet’s reach.
Mind the Christmas tree.
Whether real or artificial, the family Christmas tree is possibly the biggest holiday hazard to your pet for the following reasons:
- Water: Chemicals used to prolong freshness, flame-retardants and pesticides from the tree will leach into the water and make your pet ill if he drinks it. Block access to the water with a tree skirt or gate.
- Electrical Cords: Some pets just like to chomp on cords. Keep them out of reach, cover with tape or spray them with a pet deterrent, such as Bitter Apple or Chew Stop.
- Tinsel: Cats, in particular, love tinsel, but when consumed, it can cause blockages or choking. It’s best to avoid it altogether.
- Ornaments: Round glass ornaments look a lot like toy balls, but shinier. When broken, they can cause mouth or paw lacerations. Secure them tightly to the tree or keep them on higher branches.
- Needles: Pine needles can puncture intestines when consumed. Regularly sweep or vacuum to keep them off the floor.
Sure, as Andy Williams croons, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” But not if you have to spend it at the emergency vet’s office. Keep it safe this holiday season, and even Fido and Fluffy will have visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads.
Caring for you, your kids and your pets,
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