Here are 12 safety tips to insure your pets enjoy a safe and healthy holiday season:
12) Beware Where You Kiss: Hanging mistletoe is fine as long as it’s out of your dog or cat’s reach. Fresh mistletoe is toxic.
11) Meet the Relatives: Some pets are social butterflies, others prefer peace and quiet. A constant flow of relatives can be traumatic for some pets (even more than it is for you). Don’t force the pets to interact with Uncle Fred and Aunt Ethel if they don’t want to.
10) Stressed Out: If you’re struggling to keep up with holiday shopping, attending parties and visiting with out-of-town guests, you may feel like you don’t have a minute to spare, even for your best friend with four legs or feathers. The result: stressed-out pets. Try to maintain at least some of your normal routine: a daily walk with your pup or late night play session with kitty.
9) Candles Burning Bright: Curiosity can kill a cat. If a candle is knocked over, a house fire may start. A pet can also get singed by brushing against a candle. Scented candles can be dangerous for birds, too, due to their sensitive respiratory tracts.
8) Deck the Pets: We all suffer from the ‘grandma syndrome,’ expressing love by feeding our pets treats. The truth is, a little tidbit of turkey, chicken or ham, or slices of carrot or apple, won’t harm your pet. The problem arises when you overdo it. After all, a 150-pound person scarfing five slices of turkey meat is no big deal, and a German shepherd might be able to eat that much without stomach upset (if there’s no fat on the meat). However, a diminutive dog, like a Yorkshire terrier or a cat may pay a price.
Also, be aware that several guests might be simultaneously sneaking food to the pets when you’re not looking. Not only are they teaching your pets to beg, but added together, the combined treats can be too much of a good thing. Too much fat can lead to dangerous pancreatitis. Bones can also splinter and get lodged in a pet’s throat, which can be life threatening.
7) Holiday Treats to Die For: If there are pets around, don’t leave chocolates for Santa. A chemical in chocolate called theobromine can make dogs, cats, or birds very ill. Theobromine is especially prevalent in cooking chocolate or dark chocolate. Raw onion is bad for cats, and avocado can make birds sick, so keep a watchful eye over the guacamole!
6) Tinsel Temptation: Cats love playing with sparkly decorations, and they can knock down an entire Christmas tree as they pull on tinsel or dangling ornaments. Trailing ribbons on the presents underneath are tempting too.
This stuff really does happen. Trupanion, the pet insurance company, offers examples of claims they have had around the holidays: A 5-month old pup, named Gordon, swallowed some ribbon. After x-rays, surgery, and medication, his total vet bill came to $2,800. Save money, and maybe your pet’s life by keeping tinsel and ribbon away.
5) Keep Cats Off: A small lattice-work fence around the base of your tree will prevent cats from climbing up the branches. Still, don’t take a chance with glass ornaments. They’re pretty – display them where pets can’t knock them over.
4) No Sugar Plums in the Water: Don’t add chemical preservatives or anything else to the water sitting at the base of your tree to help your tree last longer. Likely, plain water works best anyway. So, homemade family recipes with everything from a Vitamin C to bleach to birth control pills (I’ve heard it all) won’t work. And drinking that stale water, especially if there’s an additive, can give a pet an upset tummy. Use a tree-skirt to block pets from reaching this water.
3) Good Housekeeping: Some pets, especially puppies and kittens, like to munch on fallen Christmas tree needles. They can choke on them or suffer serious tummy upset. Birds can perch on plastic trees, but they shouldn’t be allowed to munch on the plastic needles.
2) Avoid Prickly Christmas Trees: When choosing a tree, consider one with pet-friendly pliable needles, such as a Douglas fir or white pine. These needles won’t stick in your pet’s paws. (They’re also easier to vacuum up.)
1) Pets Deserve Presents, Too: As you gather to open presents, welcome all members of the family, including those with fur and feathers.