It’s getting to be that time of year again, with ho-ho-hos and ha-ha-has! During these fun and festive times, it’s important to make sure our furry friends are safe so that they can enjoy the many holidays ahead. There are many fun traditions that we people have that can be dangerous to our four-legged companions, so it’s best to be informed.
Trees, tinsel, and lights – oh my! During the holidays is a great time to whip out the decorations and go nuts. However, our flashy décor can double as a dangerous playground to our pets.
There are several seasonal plants that can be toxic to pets. Holly, mistletoe, and poinsettias are all poisonous to animals to some degree, even causing death in some cases. Other troublesome plants include amaryllis, lilies, and balsam. Try silk or plastic versions of these plants as a safe alternative. When in doubt about the toxicity of plants, visit the ASPCA’s website for information on cats and dogs.
It is also around this time that the candles come out. When the menorah or decorative candles are lit, keep the open flames out of reach of curious paws, and never leave them lit unattended. On top of potentially causing burns, knocking over an open flame can cause a fire. Make sure that all open flames are kept out of reach, on stable surfaces, and that they get put out before leaving the room!
Everyone who has celebrated Christmas with a cat knows the qualms of having a tree. It’s best to secure a tree to prevent it from getting knocked over – potentially harming your pet and home. This can be done by securing the tree to the ceiling or even a doorframe with fishing line and bolts. You can also try hanging lemon- or orange-scented air fresheners to deter any pesky felines. Other options also include placing the tree in a corner, or putting undesirable textures (such as aluminum, pine cones, double-sided tape) around the tree’s base.
With live trees, do not put additives in the water – this can include aspirin, sugar, fertilizers, or anything else that might be harmful. Ingestion of such additives (along with the bacteria that can grow in stagnant water) can lead to nausea, diarrhea, or other undesirable effects. Another option is to cover the water with a tree skirt. Live trees can also shed pine needles, which can cause stomach upset or even puncture your pet’s intestines. Be sure to keep the area around the tree clear of pine needles if you have a live tree!
It’s especially vital to be cautious with tree decorations. Broken ornaments and tinsel can cause a variety of problems; including toxicity, choking hazard, or blockage – if not worse. No one wants to take their pet to get emergency surgery, especially not during the holidays, so it’s better to be safe than sorry! Try placing these decorations higher up so that they are out of reach. If possible, it might be best not to use tinsel at all. String lights, while nice to look at, may look like a chew toy to our pets. String lights can cause burns if an animal becomes entangled in them, and they can cause shock or burn if chewed through. Like with ornaments, it might be best to put the lights out of reach.
Delicious desserts are one of the many great things to look forward to in the holiday season. However, they should only be delicious for us humans, not our companion animals. Anything that contains chocolate or has been sweetened with xylitol can be toxic, along with any fatty, spicy, or anything containing bones. Pork products are also known to cause pancreatitis in animals, so no sharing that holiday ham!
Holiday drinks are great to indulge in, but are something that can be very dangerous for our pets. Ingesting even a small amount of alcohol can lead to weakness, respiratory problems, and possibly even coma or death. So, be sure to keep Fido away from the eggnog!
Finally, holiday parties and gatherings are fun social events, but it’s important to remember that it’s a pet’s home too. To reduce any potential anxiety for your pet, make a safe space for it in a separate room with some of your pet’s favorite toys and furniture. You can allow guests to interact with your pet through play or petting, while not overwhelming the animal by crowds of people. If your pet must be separate from people altogether, try using a baby gate so that you can still be seen and visit with ease. If your pet gets particularly upset by guests, speak with your vet about the possibility of medicating.
Mention this blog post at My Zoo Animal Hospital and get a free Kong toy your pet this holiday! Have a wonderful holiday season, may you and your pets be safe!