Making the Holiday Season Safer for Your Pets
By Emily Hoppmann, DVM
If you think about how your pet loves to ambush a ball, a feather or a toy, just imagine how your pet will react to a real pine tree with all sorts of tempting things dangling from it. We want to be sure that our pets are safe during this holiday season! While it is easy to get caught up in a whirlwind of activity, it’s important to remember to take the extra steps to keep our pets safe during the holidays. With all of the activities that come with the season things can be very stressful for our pets and there are even more dangers around the house if our pets get bored and get into some kind of mischief. However, we are here to help and with a few precautions, you can make the season safe and fun for you and your pets.
Here are Some Helpful Holiday Food Tips:
• Be sure to make holiday meals off-limits! Though roasted turkey, ham, cheese balls, dips and other holiday fare may be a treat for humans, the high fat and salt content are not good for pets and can lead to pancreatitis, which can be deadly for our pets.
• Make sure that garbage cans are firmly sealed and that your pet is out of the kitchen while you make and serve food.
• Keep the turkey in the refrigerator or on a shelf that your pet can’t reach, so she can’t help herself to some while you’re distracted.
• Keep in mind that onions, garlic, grapes, and bones are also very dangerous to pets. Bones are especially dangerous because they can splinter, causing internal injuries and even death.
• Chocolate and coffee contain a substance called caffeine and theobromine, which are both toxic to pets, and the darker the chocolate the higher the amount of dangerous components. Put all chocolate cookies and cakes away or cover them when you’re not in the room.
• Alcohol is an absolute no-no for pets. Your pet probably won’t be attracted to wine, but eggnog might be more tempting, so keep it out of reach.
A More Pet-Friendly Christmas Tree:
• Tinsel, angel hair another stringy-type decorations are very bad for your pets. If your pet plays with the strands, then chew on them and potentially eat some, they can get intestinal blockages and need emergency surgery. It is best to skip the tinsel or any other type of threads to be on the safe side.
• Hang your non-breakable decorations high (and hang Grandma’s antique glass decorations very high) and leave the lower branches bare to avoid temptation (and the loss of your beloved decorations).
• Make sure your tree is on a sturdy base and that its water container is covered. The tree’s water could contain fertilizers or bacteria, so don’t let your pet lap up any of it.
• Keep wiring for Christmas lights protected so that your pet cannot chew them.
• Keep lit candles far away from where your pet could knock them over and start a fire, get burned or ingest any wax. Also, be careful about what type of candles you are burning if you have birds because they are very sensitive to inhaled toxins.
• Keep holiday arrangements, especially those containing plants, where your pets can’t reach them. Some of the more dangerous plants include mistletoe, poinsettias, lilies and holly berries.
Provide Safe havens for Your Pets:
The holidays mean lots of socializing and this can be stressful for our pets, so you want to be sure to have a safe place that your pet can hide and feel secure. You’ll probably be going to parties or even having a few yourself, out-of-town guests may stay with you or maybe you’ll have family over for dinner and from your pet’s point of view this means noisy strangers are invading her home or her owner is disappearing for long periods of time. This may make your pet anxious about when dinner is going to be served or when she’ll have some playtime with you. Keeping your pet’s schedule consistent will help keep her stress levels down. Incorporate an extra twenty minutes of playtime daily to help her burn off some holiday anxiety.
For cats, make sure the litter box is out of the way of traffic and that she has easy access to it, even while guests are staying over. The same goes for your pet’s water and food bowls. If your pet is shy around strangers, you may want to put her in your bedroom with some of her favorite toys and soft music playing while people are over. Leave her space to hide – open closet doors or make room under your bed. Also make sure you know where she is at all times – many pets run out of open doors while guests are coming in and out and the last thing we want is a lost pet during the holidays. Just in case your pet does decide to dart out, but sure she’s microchipped and wearing an up-to-date identification tag.
How to Make Presents Safe Around Your Pets
Most pets love to “help” wrap (and unwrap) gifts. After all, rustling wrapping paper, ribbons and empty boxes are some of their favorite things! It may be fun to play with all the fun stuff that comes with presents, but don’t let anything get inside your pet’s mouth. Watch your pets carefully on Christmas morning or put them away in a quiet room during the excitement of opening gifts. Of course, it’s undeniably fun to see how fast your pet can rip through wrapping paper to get to her new toy (that’s right don’t forget to get your pets a holiday gift, too ), but make sure that the toy is appropriate for your pet and that you open your pet’s gift first so they will have something to do while the rest of you open your gifts!