Winter can be a magical time of year for family, friends and furry companions alike. To help keep everyone happy and safe, consider which holiday traditions
might be potential hazards for your pet and take proper precautions — before the season begins.
Deck the Halls
Jingling bells and other holiday decorations can offer a host of new toys for pets to play with or explore, which may put them in danger. Dr. Karen Todd, a New Jersey veterinarian experienced in emergency medicine, cautions, “Pets are curious and observant. They can find things you may not even notice.” Therefore, decorate with safety in mind:
- Place ornaments higher on the tree, away from playful cats or dogs.
- Move surface decorations that pose a choking hazard out of reach. Bite-sized adornments, such as dreidels or nativity scene pieces, may cause severe internal injury if ingested.
- Tie back or tape down electrical cords, so animals who love to chew won’t nibble and get a jolt. Loose cords can also tangle around a pet, posing a risk of strangulation or possibly capsizing heavy decorations, such as a Christmas tree.
- Keep open flames inaccessible. Open fires, menorahs and other flame sources can burn animals or cause a house fire if disturbed.
During holiday feasting, pets should not participate in the gluttony (sorry, guys and girls). Feeding a pet scraps can cause stomach and intestinal upset, or more severe illnesses if the foods are toxic to animals. Pets hanging around the kitchen should be kept away from any alcohol, chocolate, macadamia nuts or raisins that may have been left out. For a more comprehensive list of toxic foods and poisonous houseplants, visit the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Animal Poison Control Center’s website.
It’s fine to dole out a few holiday dog treats sourced from quality, dog-safe ingredients, and you can also “spoil” some easy-to-please furry friends with healthy treats, such as carrots and green beans. That way, pets can enjoy the gastronomic aspect of the holidays without their health being put at risk. Of course, even wholesome pet snacks can be unhealthy if given too often, so avoid overindulging.
Home for the Holidays
There are few silent nights with holiday guests constantly coming and going. Although many pets enjoy the added attention and activity, the noise associated with gatherings can make some animals anxious. “Pets tend to become accustomed to a certain routine. Any disruption can be stressful for some pets,” Dr. Todd explains.
For that reason, give your pet a quiet area where it’s possible for him to take a nap or hide safely. A pet’s natural curiosity may draw him out when he is ready to participate in the festivities. And make sure you brief any guests on the rules for your pet, including his diet (no table scraps!) and habits. Let guests know that it is OK to show the pet attention, but that it should be on the pet’s terms. Also, visiting children should be supervised when handling an animal.
Let It Snow!
The weather outside can be delightful for a snow-loving kerry, and pet owners who are staving off the cold during the holiday season should be watchful of certain hazards while their pets are enjoying the great outdoors:
- Antifreezes can contain certain chemicals that are highly toxic to animals if swallowed; pets may lick the sweet-tasting chemical from surfaces or during self-grooming. Pet-friendly alternatives (containing propylene glycol) are available.
- Dehydration can still occur during the cold and wet weather. Pet parents should remember to keep their pets properly hydrated with fresh, clean water —especially after outdoor exercise.
- Extreme weather conditions may be hazardous if a pet is exposed for long periods. In addition, cold weather can intensify arthritis discomfort in older and overweight pets.
- Ice can be dangerous for a variety of reasons. Pets can fall through thin ice or slip on icy surfaces. In addition, sharp ice can cut the pads of a pet’s feet, so always check and brush off the pads after a pet has spent time outside.
Do You Hear What I Hear?
Pet owners should be aware of what ASPCA experts are calling the top dangers for pets during the holiday season:
- Christmas tree water — Bacteria in standing water, as well as tree food added to the water, can result in severe gastrointestinal irritation if ingested.
- Confetti and balloons — These colorful decorations pose a choking hazard and may cause internal distress if swallowed.
- Dough — Uncooked dough with yeast will still rise if ingested, which may cause severe bloating, pain, vomiting and other complications.
- Electric cords — Exposed wiring in chewed or worn cords can cause electric shock; decorated trees with string lighting or extension cords may topple if animals become entangled.
- Fatty foods — A diet that is overly rich in fats may result in gastrointestinal irritation or, in severe cases, pancreatitis.
- Holiday plants — Poinsettias generally cause only mild stomach irritation, but other plants (e.g., holly, lilies, mistletoe) are highly toxic and may cause kidney failure or other severe damage.
- Ornaments — Glass ornaments and metal hooks may look like shiny toys to playful pets, but they can cause serious damage if broken or ingested.
- Table scrap bones — Bones from your holiday feast canfractureteeth or cause mouth injuries,intestinal damage or obstruction.
- Tinsel, ribbon and yarn — Never let pets play with decorations that contain string. String can cause severe internal trauma if swallowed, or choking if it becomes tangled around a pet’s neck.
If you can’t help yourself in wanting to bring the joy of the season to your pet, many veterinarians recommend that you satisfy your gift for giving via new toys, collars, leashes, bowls, etc. Your kerry, on the other hand, might be just as happy with an extra walk, playtime, or belly-rub!