The holidays are often a time of coming together with friends and family to celebrate. Keeping your pets safe during the holiday season can be challenging with extra busy schedules and changing routines. The holidays usually increase the accessibility to “Human” food and drinks that may be hazardous to your pets.
Did you know that in addition to food dangers Christmas trees, lights, ornaments, wrapping paper, and other decorations all can also be hazardous to your dogs and cats? Not to worry, though. Below are some often overlooked simple techniques to better pet proof your home for the holidays. Awareness of these potential hazards will make it easier to prevent them as you go.
How to protect your pets from their new “Christmas Tree” toy.
If your dog or cat is fascinated with your Christmas tree and won’t leave it alone, you might consider placing it in a corner where they will have less access to it. If that isn’t an option or they still won’t leave it alone, you may want to place a small wind chime or a similar noise maker on the bottom of your tree so there will be an audible alarm when your pet goes for the tree. This will at least allow you to react quickly and better monitor their behavior so you can redirect them or just make sure they don’t damage the tree or hurt themselves. Another idea is to place a pet playpen fence around your tree to block them from getting to the tree. This might be a good solution while you aren’t celebrating Christmas directly or are away from home with your pets home alone.
Consider not putting lights near the bottom of the tree within your pet’s reach. Dogs and cats have been known to chew Christmas lights and electrical cords.
Pets occasionally eat tinsel which can cause intestinal blockages. These situations usually require surgery to resolve.
Live Christmas trees present a different hazard than artificial trees in that they require water. This standing water in the tree stand can be toxic as it often mixes with harmful sap or contains poisonous fertilizers. To reduce this risk, cover the water reservoir. You can make a shroud out of aluminum foil and cover the reservoir like you would cover a bowl, taking care to work the foil tightly around the base of the tree.
Cats and dogs sometimes view decorative ornaments as toys to be played with and chewed on. As you can imagine, this leads to choking, intestinal blockages, injured paws, and mouths. Hang more pet-friendly ornaments on the bottom of the tree and put the more dangerous ones high up on the tree if possible.
Poinsettia, holly, and mistletoe plants are considered poisonous to cats and dogs. Putting these plants up high out of your pets reach is suggested.
Remember dogs and cats have an amazing sense of smell. When you hang food decorations on your tree such as gingerbread ornaments or popcorn on a string, they will smell it and be attracted to it.
Has your dog or cat ever knocked something off a table with their tail or nose? Lit candles can easily cause a fire when knocked over so it’s a good idea to place them on high shelves out of reach of your pets.
Lastly, when wrapping gifts, keep in mind that dogs and some cats find the wrapping paper, bows, tape, and other wrapping decorations fun to chew on. As with the other Christmas decorations mentioned above, ingesting any of these items can lead to vomiting and/or intestinal blockages
With these tips and techniques in mind, you can make this the best holiday season ever for your entire family!
For more information on foods to protect your pets from this holiday season, check out our previous blog article on holiday safety tips for pet owners.
All of us at Deerfield Vet want to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Thank you for making this another great year by allowing us the privilege of caring for your pets.
To help protect your loyal companions, let’s revisit safety tips on common risks that arise for pets during the holiday season.
Many dogs love to play in the snow, like Keira here,
but even the biggest, wooliest pets are at risk when left outside unsupervised.
Chances are your beloved pets land right near the top of your 2014 Reasons to be Thankful list. We know our staff’s pets leave us all endlessly thankful. With a total of 11 dogs, nine cats, two fish, and one rabbit (among our many families, of course!), we have a bunch of cuddle buddies to keep us grateful. Along with all the smiles, pets come with a heap of responsibilities. That’s especially important to remember during the revelry and hustle and bustle of the holidays.
So you can give your pets the gift of Safe & Happy Holidays, we’ve put together the following set of useful pet safety tips.
All those family get-togethers in November and December can, at times, be downright overwhelming for people — and humans at least know when and why our daily routines will be tossed aside. Just imagine the stress pets feel with all that chaos invading their homes without warning! To help your dogs or cats cope, designate a cozy, peaceful place they can escape to for some much-needed quiet time. Keep that spot stocked with food, water, and their favorite toys. We also recommend spending snuggle time together there in advance, so your pet knows the safe zone is a reward, not a punishment.
As your trusted veterinarian in Springfield, MO, we have one last important Pet Stress tip for you: Remember to join your buddy for a quick visit to the safe zone when you need it! Sneaking away to pet your pet for a few minutes will trigger endorphins for you both, helping your pet relax and helping you find your inner happy place. We find that helps people remember how thankful they are to be hosting the big family dinner.
Special treats are terrific rewards for pets, and we’re all for including every member of the family in the feasting — if done safely. It’s easy to indulge your pleading pet without risking harm or even death. Simply reserve the people food for people and stock up on safe yet tasty treats for the four-legged folk.
“Yeah, but what’s the big harm in sharing leftovers with pets?,” you ask. The risks are very real. Older pets are at particular risk with any uninformed guests around. Conditions like diabetes and chronic kidney disease in dogs and cats require crucial diet restrictions that many people don’t know about. If your pet has similar health issues, be sure to let guests know it’s just plain dangerous to share people food.
Here are just a few foods, as listed on the American Humane Association (AHA) website, that pose a threat to animals if not disposed of properly:
- Chocolate can be deadly; it can also damage the heart as well as the central nervous system and urinary system. Like Dr. Ned warned last year, don’t forget pets can easily sniff out and unwrap gifts of chocolate, so keep those and other edible gifts put away.
- Bones can cause deadly damage by tearing your pet’s intestines.
- Onions from turkey stuffing can cause anemia in dogs.
- Grapes can cause kidney failure.
Cocktails, beer, and wine are dangerous for pets too, so be mindful to keep an eye on your glass when sipping a drink.
All That Glitters
Among those who celebrate Christmas, who doesn’t enjoy the shimmer and sparkle of a beautifully adorned tree? Not many. You know who really finds your Christmas tree irresistible? The cat and the dog. With all that shiny tinsel and the glittery ornaments, not to mention the pretty ribbons on gifts, the towering tree is downright taunting your pets. And they may very well retaliate if you’re not watching. It may seem like such a scene would be comical to see, like in the classic Christmas Vacation flick. In the real world, though, the outcome can be far from funny if a pet tangles with the tree or other decorations.
Here are a few important precautions — again, as noted on the AHA site—to take when decorating:
- Keep pets away from the tree water, which is often full of bacteria and/or poisons from preservatives used on the tree.
- Ensure the tree is stable, so it won’t fall if a pet jumps on it.
- Place any tinsel, ribbon, or breakable ornaments toward the top of the tree or on tall shelves, so pets can’t reach the would-be “toys” and risk swallowing them. Many pets have choked on these decorations or have needed surgery to remove obstructions once swallowed.
- Sweep, sweep, sweep those pine needles and any leaves from other holiday plants. Curious pets don’t know that pine needles and many leaves are full of toxins.
Oh, The Weather Outside is Frightful
Of course you love your pets too much to ever leave them out in the cold on purpose. But with all the shopping, cooking, gift wrapping, visiting, peacekeeping, and general preparing you have to do this time of year, the ol’ short-term memory can be taxed to capacity. That can lead to absent-minded accidents that put your pets at risk. To take proactive steps against that, you can use handy little tricks that remind you to check on your pet before leaving the house. Here are two tricks we suggest: Keep your keys next to a picture of your pet or leave a note on the door you regularly exit. Those reminders are simple but effective.
For additional tips on keeping your pets safe during the holidays, brush up on Dr. Ned’s 2013 Holiday Safety Tips, which still hold true. If your pet should fall victim to any risks that arise during the holidays, immediately contact your veterinarian or call the Animal Poison Control Center at 888.426.4435.
Finally, on behalf of everyone at Deerfield Veterinary Hospital, here’s wishing you and yours love, laughter, and lots of snuggle time throughout the season.