Tis the season to be jolly – and to be more diligent about keeping our pets safe and healthy. Holiday decorations and get-togethers can place our pets at a greater risk for getting into trouble. So in this post, we’ll offer some holiday pet safety tips to keep in mind as you’re planning your celebrations.
Pet-safe Holiday Decorating
The tree. With pets in the house, it’s safest to place your tree in a corner. This makes it easier to anchor the top of the tree, so animals won’t knock it over. (You can also add support and balance by using a tree stand one size bigger than the tree.) Discourage cats and small dogs from playing in the tree by covering lower branches with aluminum foil or hanging small metal or plastic containers with noisy coins inside on them. Consider using an artificial tree if pets (or owners) have allergies; it decreases allergens and mold spores.
Live tree water. Do not use fertilizer or aspirin in live tree water. Both can be toxic to pets if they drink it. Even plain water left standing in the reservoir can grow bacteria that may make your pet sick. So after watering your tree, cover the opening of the reservoir with aluminum foil to keep pets from accessing the water.
Tinsel and ornaments. Tinsel is dangerous for pets, especially cats. If ingested, it can cause a digestive blockage requiring surgery. So keep it up high and out of reach. The same goes for ornaments, especially small ones, as these can cause an obstruction if swallowed. Keep in mind that glass ornaments can fall and break, causing a swallowing or cutting hazard, so be certain they are tightly attached to your tree. Ornaments used on the lower part of the tree should be made of plastic, paper, or cloth and should be attached using long wire hooks that can be wrapped around the branches – so ornaments cannot easily fall off or be pulled off by your pet.
Presents. When wrapping presents (or unwrapping them), be mindful of strings and ribbon left lying about. These can be tempting to small animals, especially cats, and if ingested they can cause a blockage or even cut through pet intestines. If you wish to display wrapped presents with strings and bows under the tree, consider using an expandable gate or x-pen around the tree until Christmas morning. Also, avoid leaving out any gifts that may contain food your pets will detect.
Holiday plants. Many seasonal plants such as mistletoe, poinsettias, amaryllis, balsam, cedar, and lilies are poisonous. Ingesting them can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Ingesting lilies can also cause kidney failure. So keep your holiday plants up and out of reach from your pets. Keep in mind, too, that many Styrofoam or plastic decorations placed on stick picks in holiday flower arrangements can create digestive blockages if your pets try to eat them.
For a full list of toxic plants, see the ASPCA poison control website.
Candles. Lit candles attract curious animals and can lead to burns or singed hair – or even a house fire, if knocked over! So place candles high and out of reach. When possible, cover them with a glass chimney. And remember that many of the new battery-operated, imitation candles offer a safe alternative that can be as spirit-warming as the real thing.
Potpourri. Liquid potpourri may contain essential oils and detergents that can cause severe damage to pet mouths, eyes, and skin. So keep it covered and out of reach.
Electrical cords. Be certain to tape down all wires and electrical cords to keep pets from accidently biting or chewing on them and getting electrocuted or creating a fire hazard.
Pet-safe Holiday Gatherings
Stress and exercise. Holidays can be busy and noisy times. While this can be fun for us, many pets unaccustomed to this change in their routine can become nervous and stressed. Be mindful of how your pet seems to be feeling during the day. If they appear stressed or anxious (cowering, hiding, ears down or tail between their legs), then move them to a separate, quiet room. And keep in mind that daily exercise is important in helping your pet regulate stress. Exercise your dog early in the day so they are tired when guests arrive.
Kids. Pets not accustomed to children ought to be kept confined to a separate room. Young children may not recognize a pet’s warning signs and become injured as a result of playful behavior like tugging or pulling at hair, ears, and tails.
Food. Ask your guests – especially their children – not to feed your pets, especially with fatty table foods that can upset your pet’s dietary adjustment and lead to intestinal upset, vomiting, diarrhea, or potentially life-threatening pancreatitis in sensitive animals. Certain occasional foods also contain ingredients (like grapes, raisins, and onions) that can be toxic to pets. If your pets are inclined to beg for food, consider feeding them in advance of holiday gatherings, or leave dry food out as a snack. And keep all food at a level your pet can’t easily reach, making sure anything left on the stove or counters during mealtimes is covered.
Sweets and desserts. Keep your pets away from the sweet stuff. Chocolate contains theobromine, which can cause agitation, tremors, and seizures. Sugar-free candy and sweets may contain xylitol, which can cause low blood sugar and seizures in dogs. Holiday breads frequently contain raisins or currants that are toxic to dogs and may cause kidney failure.
Alcohol. Discourage your guests from leaving their drinks unattended. Alcohol can cause weakness, coma, or death when ingested by small animals, and holiday drinks (especially eggnog) can be tempting to pets.
Trash. Empty the trash frequently, particularly when it may contain things like turkey bones and skin. Pets that ingest small poultry bones may develop intestinal blockages or perforations that could require emergency surgery. And fatty turkey skin may cause vomiting, diarrhea, or pancreatitis. Dispose of these promptly, and secure the trash outdoors.
We wish you and your pets a safe and happy holiday season! And be sure to leave extra time for holiday shopping the next time you stop by one of our stores. We carry all kinds of unique gifts, toys, and home décor sure to get you in a festive mood.