With the holidays rapidly approaching, we’re gearing up for all the fun and festivities of the season. This includes decking the halls, baking up our favorite sweet treats, wrapping up gifts and having friends and family over. If you’re a pet parent like me, your furry kids probably have their own stockings, get new toys and treats, and may even get their picture taken with Santa Paws. Including pets at the holidays adds to the joy and spirit season. Emergency vet visits, not so much. Our list of Holiday Safety Tips for Pets will help keep them safe and comfortable this holiday season.
DECORATIONS & PLANTS
Oh Tannenbaum, the Tree of Temptation
- Whether your tree is real or artificial, securely anchor it so that it doesn’t tip over. Falling trees may cause injury to your pet. It will also prevent you from having to completely redecorate the tree. If you’re anything like me, I only want to do it once.
- If you do have a real tree, keep the water fresh and cover the stand so that pets are not encouraged to drink the water. Bacteria from stagnant water and fertilizers may cause intestinal distress. No fun when you have guests over.
- Consider replacing your glass ornaments for plastic ornaments. Glass ornaments can break, and even the smallest shard can cause an external laceration, or worse, an internal laceration, if accidentally ingested. Ornaments should also be big enough that your pet cannot fit them in their mouth if they do happen to get ahold of one (this is really more for cats). At our home, we drape pine needle garland over the doorways and out of the reach of our pets, which allows us to display our treasured and breakable ornaments.
- Twinkly tinsel and glittery garland can be the finishing touches on your beautiful tree, but these slivers of silver and gold are also dangerous pet magnets. If your pet ingests garland or tinsel, it may lead to an obstruction in the intestinal tract, and could possibly mean surgery, which could be one thousand times more expensive than that five dollar box of tinsel.
- Hide or cover the cords to the tree lights and other plugged-in decorations as best as possible. If pets have easy access to these and are prone to gnawing on stuff, the result can be electrocution. That scene from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is not one you want in real life. If you have a pet that is notorious for chewing, I would recommend looking into battery operated lights and decorations.
Pretty Plants & Glowing Accessories
- Plants like holly, mistletoe and poinsettias are traditional decorative plants at the holidays. But these plants are highly toxic to pets when ingested. If you simply love to display these plants, opt for high quality artificial plants. Added perks include no watering and they are reusable.
- Fragrant and decorative candles, while imparting a subtle glow and enchanting fragrance, can be dangerous if left unattended. Curious and rambunctious pets can burn themselves if they get too close or knock them over, which may lead to a fire. When burning candles, make sure they are in appropriate containers, on a stable surface and extinguished when you leave the house or go to bed.
FOOD & DRINK
Share Your Love, Not Your Food
It’s tempting to want to share your holiday food with your furry friend. Those pitiful puppy dog eyes plead for just one bite of what’s on your plate. But even if you’ve sworn off your diet for the holidays, don’t ruin theirs! And don’t forget to remind your guests that in your zoo, “Please Don’t Feed the Animals”.
- Traditional holiday foods like ham, turkey and roast beef can be high in fat and salt which may cause intestinal discomfort. Bones from these foods can lead to obstructions in the airways or intestines and may lead to surgery or death. Sweet treats like cookies, candies and chocolates are also a no-no for all pets. Whether you’re baking the treats yourself or receive them as a gift, make sure they are out of reach of all pets and stored in secured containers. Ingestion usually leads to gastrointestinal upset, but may also lead to death if consumed in large quantities.
- Other foods like potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, peas and carrots are all “pet-safe” foods. But when you add butter, milk, salt, pepper or other ingredients, these “pet-safe” foods are now on the naughty list. If you want to share some holiday foods with your pet, I recommend that you set aside some of these vegetables in the raw* before you add other ingredients. *SIDENOTE: Raw potatoes are NOT safe for dogs! Bake or boil them first.
Careful With the Cocktails
- With the holiday spirit in the air, it’s likely that there will probably be some holiday spirit in your glass as well. Just like human foods, human beverages are not safe for pets. Wine, beer and spirits, if consumed, can lead to weakness and respiratory failure. If you want to give your pet a little something special to drink on New Year’s Eve, add a splash of low-sodium chicken broth to your pups’ water or a treat your kitty to a tablespoon of tuna water.
WRAPPING PAPER, RIBBONS & BAGS
Neatly Wrapped & Tied With a Bow – Unless You Have a Cat
If your pets are like mine, they have this sixth sense about when you’re getting ready to wrap gifts. Before I even pull out the paper, tape and scissors, they are hovering around the table stacked with gifts, ready for the fun to begin. While it can be amusing and entertaining, even if slightly annoying, to watch your pets play with paper and ribbon, these items can easily and accidentally be ingested, which may lead to airway or intestinal obstructions.
- I have found that it’s best for me to secure the cats in the office or bedroom while I’m wrapping gifts. The protesting is usually loud, but I know it will be safer for them and faster for me in the long run. The dogs seem to be fine with a firm command to lie down, but even then they get curious and try to offer assistance. That’s when they get a treat in their crate and take a nap.
- If you plan to keep your gifts under the tree, you may want to avoid ribbons and bows altogether, since curious pets will surely find them, but you won’t.
- If you’re using bags or cellophane wrap, make sure that your pets cannot get their head in the bags or wrap. If left unsupervised, getting their head caught in a handle or bag may lead to strangulation or suffocation.
VISITORS & LOUD NOISES
“Welcome to My House – Oh, I’m Sorry, That’s How I Say Hello”
The holiday season is the time of year when friends and family gather for dinners, parties and get-togethers. If you’re planning on hosting parties or having friends and family stay with you, it’s best to get your pets prepared; and a sit down conversation isn’t going to work.
- If your pets are people friendly and love it when you have visitors, there are a few things you can do to help keep your pets and guests in good spirits. First, as you are anticipating guests, put your dog or cat in a safe place so that when you open the door, they are not tempted to run out. By securing them away for a few minutes, this also allows your guests to get a little more comfortable without being “greeted” by the dog. After your guests are settled, introduce your dog or cat. If someone complains about the fur, just remind them…the pets live there, they don’t, and then offer up the lint roller.
- For pets that are a little more shy or don’t like visitors (like two of my five cats), it’s in their best interest to keep them behind closed doors in a room they are comfortable with. Just make sure they have food and water. For cats, do not forget the litter box. For dogs, they will either need to be taken out at some point during the party or have a way to get out to go potty. I would highly recommend that you segregate the dogs from the cats. Even if they normally get along, they may be anxious which can lead to fights. Also, it’s really no fun finding out the dog helped you clean the cat box.
Cranking Up the Volume
- In all of the excitement of the holiday season, sometimes the noise level can be taken to another level. If your party or gathering includes music, shenanigans, noisemakers or fireworks, the loud noises and quick movements may cause your pet to get nervous or scared. If left alone or unsupervised, they may become destructive or run away. If your dog is crate trained, you know that this is their “safe space” and a great place to let them rest during the party. If your pup usually has free roam of the house, a small bedroom furthest away from the noise is the best place. Just make sure to look for items they may destroy if anxious or nervous and remove them.
- You may also want to talk to your vet about medicines that can relieve anxiety and stress. They can offer both pharmaceutical and holistic options. Be sure to give your pet a lot of extra attention after the noise has subsided and your guests have gone home.
By keeping your pets safe over the holiday season and following our Holiday Pet Safety Tips, not only will you avoid a costly emergency vet visit (which usually means someone’s giving up a gift or two), you, your guests and your pets will all enjoy the fun and festivities and ring in the New Year with a smile.