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  • Kelley Post

Pet Safety Tips for the Holidays

Preparing for the holidays is a busy time and being mindful of pet safety is sometimes overlooked. However, as responsible pet owners, the last thing we want to do is spend part of our holidays in emergency care with our pets. There are several different risk factors over the holidays that we can take steps to minimize.

Penny and Christmas tree. Photo credit: Kelley Post

The Christmas Tree. Do you get a real tree or have an artificial one? A real Christmas tree needs to be watered so you have to be careful that your pet does not drink out of the watering holder of the tree. The water can be toxic and cause gastrointestinal problems such as nausea or vomiting. Some live Christmas trees can have fertilizer and preservatives such as aspirin that will come out in the water. Keep the pot covered with a tree skirt. Avoid using fragile decorations as they can fall off and break and the pet may mistake the decoration for a toy.

Anchor the tree to the wall and or the ceiling to avoid the risk of it tipping over and injuring a pet. Pine needles can also be dangerous if ingested by a pet as they can puncture a pet’s stomach. Make sure the needles are swept up when they fall off the tree. Use gates or exercise pens around your tree to keep the animals from climbing on the tree or knocking it over. Use pet deterrent spray or hot sauce near the base of the tree to keep pets away from the tree. Use twist-ties or string to secure your decorations to the tree. Weigh down your tree base to prevent the tree from tipping.

Avoid using tinsel for any decorations as the bright sparkly colors can attract the pets and if they eat the tinsel, it can cause extreme health issues.

Christmas plants that we bring into the house for the holiday season can be dangerous. The following plants are poisonous to pets and can cause irritation to the stomach, mouth, and intestines; Azaleas, Amaryllis, Evergreens, Ivy, Lilies, Junipers, Holly, Mistletoe, Chrysanthemums, and Poinsettias.

Fireplaces and candles look nice for the season, but a playful pet can knock over a candle.

Electrical cords and Christmas lights are a big risk for all pets, but especially those who like to chew. The cords should be hidden, not just out of sight, but out of reach. Many years ago, we had a rabbit who loved to chew on cords, behind the couch. There were cords that we didn’t even realize that he had been chewing on until the lamp didn’t work. That could have caused a fire.

Gifts can be very tempting. The fancy paper and bows that may have wires can entice the inquisitive pet to investigate the presents under the tree. Edible people gifts containing chocolates, baking, candies, coffee, and liquors can be toxic for pets, even in small quantities. Candles can also be a risk as some pets may mistake a candle for a treat and try to eat it. It is a good idea to give your pet a treat that is specifically made for a pet, such as bully sticks, lamb-lung, oatmeal chews, soft chews, and other pet-friendly treats.

There are holiday foods that you should not share. Many human foods can cause digestive issues in pets. Chocolate, alcohol, nuts, sugary desserts, and leftovers such as gravy and fried foods are off-limits to pets. Cooked bones can splinter and can cause intestinal blockages. Avoid having open bowls of food on the coffee table where pets can help themselves.

Pets can stress out about the holidays too. Try to keep things as normal as possible for your pet. With people coming and going more than usual, the pet has to adjust to changes. Over the holidays, make sure that your pet has a place to go that is away from the crowd, maybe their kennel or a quiet room. Don’t be surprised if the pet has some behavioral issues. Don’t expect that the pet will get along with everyone and don’t force them to get along, especially with someone else’s pet. Try and spend some quiet time with your pet only, going for a walk, or just relaxing together.

Including your pet in the holiday celebrations can add to our family’s enjoyment of the season.

Kelley and Larry Post wish you all a Joyous and safe holiday season.

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