6 Ways To Keep Your Pet Safe This Holiday Season
The holiday season is upon us! It’s the most wonderful time of the year… provided it does not include an emergency visit to a veterinary clinic for your beloved pet. To keep your holidays merry and bright, and your pup or kitty safe, we’ve come up with a few tips so your pet gets nothing but love, plenty of scritches, and perhaps a new toy from Santa Paws. Here’s our guide with six ways to keep your pet safe this holiday season.
Food and the holidays go hand in hand. Even if you are not entertaining, you will probably have foods in your home that are new to your pet. The best practice is simple: keep all “people food” out of the reach of your pet. And if your pet is like mine, they can become quite devious in their seek-to-eat escapades. One year I was enjoying a glass of red and a bit of 65% dark chocolate while addressing Christmas cards. When I let the room to get a refill, I tucked the candy into the desk drawer. In the amount of time it took me to top off my wine glass, Ollie had opened the drawer (?!?) and consumed all the chocolate. He was only 10 pounds, the chocolate was dark and gone, so off we went to the emergency animal hospital. I find it so interesting that whenever one of my dogs gets into trouble, it’s always after normal vet office hours. Cha-ching.
So skip the table scrap snacks. If you’re a softie and must treat your pup to human food,
Treat your dog to:
- Pumpkin puree (out of the can, not from the pie)
- Unseasoned cooked veggies (sweet potatoes, baked potatoes, green beans, broccoli, carrots)
- Turkey (unseasoned and without bones)
- Apples (no core or seeds) and bananas
- Unsweetened cranberries
- Safe and special treats on the Santa Paws list might include:
- Chew toys that are basically indestructible
- Kongs that can be stuffed with healthy foods
- Chew treats that are designed to be safely digestible
- Long, stringy things are a feline’s dream, but the riskiest toys for cats involve ribbon, yarn, and loose little parts that can get stuck in the intestines, often necessitating surgery.
- Surprise kitty with a new ball that’s too big to swallow, a stuffed catnip toy, or the interactive cat dancer.
Tell Rover “Absolutely Not” to:
- Bones can easily splinter and can cause serious health problems (even death) for your pet.
- Candy contains the sweetener xylitol which can actually lead to liver failure, so keep sweets of all kinds away from your pup, cat, or ferret.
- Chocolate contains theobromine, which can be extremely poisonous when ingested by dogs and may even result in seizures and death.
- Dairy products like milk, cream, cheese, and butter are bad for dogs. They can cause diarrhea and other digestive disturbances as well as allergic reactions in dogs.
- The entire onion family including onion flakes, onion powder, chives, and garlic, may be an ingredient in many holiday foods from mashed potatoes to gravy to stuffing. In fresh, cooked, dried, or powdered form, onions can lead to damaged blood cells and anemia.
- Ham and bacon can cause pancreatitis, a potentially life-threatening disease, in dogs.
- Nutmeg, in significant amounts, can be toxic, causing hallucinations, stomach pain, and possibly even seizures. Other spices can be dangerous, too, so it’s best not to feed dogs treats from your holiday dinner.
- Nuts have very high fat content and may contain other toxins that can result in stomach upset or other serious health complications. Macadamia nuts, in particular, when fed to your furry family member even in small amounts, can be especially toxic and result in vomiting, tremors, paralysis, rapid heartbeat, and other complications.
- Citrus and pits. Keep foods containing citric acid away from your pets. Foods such as cherry pits, peach pits, and apple seeds contain essential oils that can cause irritations, blockages and even central nervous system depression if a significant amount if they are ingested.
- Caffeine from coffee, tea, or chocolate is an ingredient in some desserts or other holiday dishes. Caffeine can actually be fatal to canines.
- Raisins and grapes consumed even in small quantities may cause rapid kidney failure in some dogs, and fruitcakes are one holiday offering likely to contain them. If you were thinking that you could unload an unwanted fruitcake on your pup, think again.
- Salt abounds in many holiday dishes, and when consumed by dogs can cause excessive thirst, urination, or worse. It’s especially detrimental to dogs with underlying kidney or cardiovascular conditions.
- Sugar found in most holiday desserts can fuel cavities, obesity, and even diabetes. It’s also bad for dogs with arthritis.
- Alcohol has the same effect on dogs’ livers and brains as on humans’, but it doesn’t take as much to cause serious damage and can even lead to respiratory distress, tremors, coma, and death. That rum cake? Off limits for Rover!
- Eggnog is loaded with fat, sugar, milk, raw eggs, and alcohol, making it a quintuple whammy, none of which is good for Whisker’s health—or yours, for that matter.
2. DECK THE HALLS
Who doesn’t love a beautifully decorated home for the holidays? Your pets may love your decorations too much. To keep your pet safe, follow these tips:
- All By Myself. Never leave your pet alone in the room with lit candles, a decorated tree, or potpourri.
- Boughs of Holly. Avoid mistletoe, lilies, and holly. Holly, when ingested, can cause pets to suffer nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Mistletoe can cause gastrointestinal upset and cardiovascular problems. Many varieties of lilies can cause kidney failure in cats if ingested. Opt for just-as-jolly artificial plants made from silk or plastic, or choose a pet-safe bouquet.
- Tinsel Town. Kitties love the sparkly, light-catching tinsel “toy” that’s easy to bat around and carry in their mouths. But a nibble can lead to a swallow, which can lead to an obstructed digestive tract, severe vomiting, dehydration, and possible surgery. It’s best to brighten your boughs with something other than tinsel.
- Oh, Christmas Tree. Secure your Christmas tree to keep it from falling over if your dog bumps it or your cat climbs it. A falling tree may injure your pet (not to mention precious ornaments!). A properly secured tree will also prevent the tree water—which may contain fertilizers that can cause stomach upset—from spilling. Stagnant tree water is a breeding ground for bacteria, and your pet could end up with nausea or diarrhea should he imbibe. Hanging lemon-scented car air fresheners in the tree may deter your cat from climbing it.
- Make sure your dogs or cats do not chew on limbs or droppings from the tree. Ingested pine needles could become lodged in the intestinal tract, puncturing the lining, or bunching together and causing an intestinal obstruction.
- That Holiday Glow. Never leave lighted candles unattended. Pets may burn themselves or cause a fire if they knock candles over. Be sure to use appropriate candleholders, and place them on a stable surface. When you leave the room, put the candle out.
- An Open Fire. If your dog enjoys chewing, avoid fake and fire starter logs. They contain sawdust and paraffin which can cause an irritated stomach or even intestinal blockage when ingested.
- All Wired Up. Keep wires, batteries, strings of lights, and glass or plastic ornaments out of paws’ reach. A wire can deliver a potentially lethal electrical shock and a punctured battery can cause burns to the mouth and esophagus. At the same time, shards of breakable ornaments can damage your pet’s mouth and digestive tract.
3. SILENT NIGHT
Give your pet his own quiet space to retreat to—complete with fresh water, a place to snuggle, and a favorite toy or two. Shy pups and cats might want to hide out under a piece of furniture, in their carrying case, kennel, crate, perching place, scratching post shelf, or hiding place or in a separate room away from the hubbub and to escape the excitement (such as a if you’re entertaining guests).
Though the excitement of a party may overwhelm some pets, keep your pets inside during cold weather and provide plenty of toys to keep them busy.
Prepare ahead of your scheduled party time with lots of play and exercise to discourage barking.
As you count down to the new year, please keep in mind that strings of thrown confetti can get lodged in a cat’s intestines, if ingested, perhaps necessitating surgery. Noisy poppers can terrify pets and cause possible damage to sensitive ears. And remember that many pets are also scared of fireworks, so be sure to secure them in a safe, escape-proof area as midnight approaches.
Inform your visitors ahead of time that you have a pet, as some folks may be afraid of dogs or have allergies to pet dander.
Establish house rules with your guests regarding your animals. These rules should include your food and treat preferences, whether guests can feed from the table, if your pet enjoys being held (or not), and what kind of play is appropriate. If your guests have small children, be sure you and their parents carefully watch to ensure kids don’t handle your pet too roughly or pay it too much attention.
Ask animal-loving guests if they’d like to give your pets a little extra attention and exercise while you’re busy tending to the party. If they are so inclined, ask them to feel free to start a nice play or petting session.
Safeguard your medications behind secure doors, and tell your guests to keep their meds zipped up and packed away, too.
Pets who enjoy selecting their own snacks out of the trash bin (baaaad dog) can accidentally eat foods that are potentially poisonous to them. Keep trash in tightly sealed containers or hidden somewhere your pet can’t access.
6. IN CASE OF EMERGENCY
Be prepared for the worst-case scenario:
- Identify your closest 24/7 emergency veterinary clinic before an emergency occurs.
- Write down or store the number for your veterinarian or pet hospital on your phone.
- Research, then save your pet hospital or clinic’s holiday hours.
- Write down or store the number of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center: 888-426-4435 on your phone. Note that a consultation fee may apply.
For those of us who love our pets, the holidays wouldn’t be the same without them! Following simple guidelines can make sure your beloved pet stays safe this holiday season. And tell your dog we said hi.