Holiday Hazards for Pets

Christmas time brings happy thoughts to most people, but it can bring about many hazards for pets.  It also brings an added stress for you, as well as your pets.

Many parts of our holiday decorations and celebrations are actually hazardous to our pets.  It’s important to consider your dog or cat, just as you would a young child, when planning your festivities.

Christmas Tree-  Your beautiful tree can create quite a stir with your pets.  Cats love to jump into the tree branches, thinking that they might climb to the top.  More often, they end up tangled in the decorations with the tree on top of them on the floor.  Dogs grab the tree and might also pull it down, or pull the decorations off and chew them.  Occasionally a male dog might mistake his place to do his business and you find your tree with markings on the base.  Real trees and their artificial counterparts all share these concerns, but the real trees have another, that of the water and preservative in it.  If you dog drinks from it, he may become lethally ill.

Unless you know your pet has no interest in the tree, the best line of defense is to not leave him alone with it.  It is possible to train him to leave the tree and it’s decorations alone, but care should still be taken, in case he forgets.  A grate over the tree stand will keep him from drinking dangers.  Sometimes the simplest answer is a new toy or two to divert his attention.

Garland, tinsel, shiny ornaments, gift wrap and ribbon, flickering lights—what pet could resist?  Ingesting decorations may well mean a very expensive trip to the vet.  Electrical cords and lighting wires are attractive, but very dangerous and usually result in serious burns or death.

While dogs see most decorations as toys, cats are equally attracted to them.  A game of bat the ornament off the tree can lead to broken glass or pieces of metal hangers strewn about.  Tinsel is the ultimate cat chew, often as intriguing as catnip.  Once ingested, it often blocks the intestine much like a huge hairball and usually results in a vet visit with possible surgery.

Again, prevention is the key.  Watch your pets and ensure they are kept safe.

Holiday Plants 
Poinsettia plants are as much a part of Christmas as is mistletoe, and both create dangers for your pets.  Holly is another plant that is often seen at Christmas and is poisonous to your pet.   There are many poisonous plants, but these three often show up on tables and areas where pets can easily reach them.

If you decorate with poinsettia, holly, and mistletoe, keep them out of your pet’s reach.  Again, prevention remains the best solution.

Chocolate might be a favorite of humans, but it is often deadly to dogs.  If your pet eats even a small amount, you will need to check with your vet on the proper procedure to lessen his symptoms.  Greater amounts will require a vet visit.

Cookies and other sweet treats are tempting for all of us and your pets are no exception.  One small bon bon might not harm your dog, but a plateful of sugar cookies is bound to give him a stomach ache, or worse.

Holiday dinners often include turkey or ham, and bones of either can cause serious injury or death if they are eaten by your pet.  Skin and fat portions are loved treats, but again, cause sometimes extreme digestive upset.  The fat portions are of even greater concern as they sometimes are close to the bone and undercooked.

Nuts, a holiday treat eaten as they are, as well as in breads, candies, and cookies, can be a great concern for pet owners.  Some popular nuts are toxic in smaller amounts. Avoid giving these to your pets to be safe.

Tangible Christmas hazards such as decorations and holiday foods are worthy of concern, but holiday stress can be just as difficult on your pet and much harder to discern.

When people stress about the holidays, or anything else for that matter, pets pick up on the elevated adrenalin and usually become stressed from it.  Adding to the pet’s distress is often less time with their humans as holiday shopping and celebrations pull more away.  Then visitors come in larger numbers.  Our pets can become quite stressed from these changes in their routines and, like with people, stress can cause physical harm to your pet.  If he stops eating, acts fidgety, forgets his house manners, or even becomes disagreeable, you would be wise to consider finding ways to lighten his stress level.

Perhaps he needs a room that he can retreat to when company visits.  A new toy might give him a sense of comfort when you need to be away.  Sometimes the best thing for his stress is a little more time with you; you might groom him a little more, go for an extra walk, or just listen to music while he snuggles next to you.  Just imagine what you would need in his place; you can probably find his perfect calming need.

Need other ideas for helping your pet through the holiday?   /your-questions.html
 For the holidays…
Give thought to the needs of your pet and his safety during the Christmas and New Year season.  The best Christmas is that with your pet as joyful as the rest of the family!

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