Do You Know Your Pet’s Holiday Plans?
The holidays are a busy time. For a brief couple of months, there are parties to plan and attend, decorations to take out of storage, gifts to buy and wrap, and family to endure. There is a lot going on, but you’re not the only one going through it – so are your four-legged friends. The holiday spirit can pose many dangers to your pets.
Trees: If you set up a tree in your home, you know that it’s loaded with things your pet will find interesting: lights, glass ornaments, tinsel, ribbons, etc. Make sure that you set tree decorations high enough to keep your pet from reaching them. Tinsel and ribbons (in which cats are particularly interested) can cause choking and intestinal blockage. Pine needles can puncture intestines, so keep the area clean. Secure the tree to the ceiling from the top in order to keep it from falling should your pet be truly determined to access those high-up decorations.
Lights: The danger with holiday lights is clear: risk of electrocution. Even if your pet isn’t ordinarily a chewer, new and interesting things in the home may persuade them to make an exception. As with your tree decorations, ensure that decorative light strings have been securely anchored into position and out of your pet’s reach.
Plants: Many common holiday plants, such as poinsettias, lilies, holly, and mistletoe are poisonous to both humans and animals. Because as humans we generally avoid eating household plants, we may forget that having them accessible to our curious pets can pose the hazard of poisoning. Keep them out of your pet’s reach, or if at all possible, substitute them with a silk or plastic version.
Other decorations: Some other hazardous decorations include: lit candles, snow globes (which may contain toxic substances such as Salmonella or antifreeze), spray snow, potpourri, and ceramic knickknacks. The same principle applies; make them as inaccessible to your pets as possible.
Food and Drink
Chocolate: The stigma around chocolate and dogs has been around for so long that some believe it might just be an urban legend. In fact, chocolate is toxic to both dogs and cats. Chocolate contains theobromine, an alkaloid similar to caffeine. When humans ingest theobromine, we experience a slight increase in blood pressure, heart rate, and sensitivity of the nervous system. Our pets cannot process this alkaloid as efficiently as we can, so the same effects are multiplied. The increased heart rate alone is enough to be fatal. Of course fatality depends much on the amount ingested and the size of the animal, but even small amounts in a large dog can cause intestinal distress (vomiting and diarrhea), seizures, and dehydration. Keep anything with chocolate in it sealed and away from your pets.
Table food: Guests may be tempted to feed old begging Fido some of their plate’s leftovers, but do what you can to discourage it. Table scraps can cause stress to your pet’s sensitive digestive system, and in some cases cause pancreatitis. Do not feed your pets food from your table, and ensure that you and your guests do not leave plates unattended.
Alcohol: This goes without saying, but those delicious holiday cocktails should be kept away from your pets. As with theobromine, cats and dogs do not process alcohol with the efficiency that we do. Even small amounts can be harmful, and can go so far as to cause respiratory failures. Keep those drinks in your line of sight and do not leave them unattended.
You may be under a lot of stress knowing your in-laws are on their way from out of town, but your pets have it worse. Holiday gatherings thrust household pets immediately out of their usual comfort zones. Dehydration, intestinal upset such as vomiting or diarrhea, and “accidents” in the house are known reactions to animal stress. Make sure your pet has a safe, quiet place to go in order to escape the chaos. Have an off-limits room with the door open, many dogs enjoy the den-like seclusion of a plastic crate. Take small moments away from your hosting duties to attend to your pet – soothe and calm them alone with your voice. You will also want to ensure that your pet is registered and wearing proper, current I.D. in case they bolt out the door while guests are coming and going.
Save yourself from expensive vet bills, painful pet behavior, and all of the other traumas that come with an unhappy pet by taking the time to make your home as safe for them as possible. Should your pet ingest a toxic substance, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-4-ANI-HELP. Safe and happy holidays to you and your pets!
Jay Acker heads up a team of writers producing safety training courses and other materials for business customers. They make safety training kits, courseware and safety posters for www.safetyservicescompany.com.