Protect your pets from holiday hazards

Protect your pets from holiday hazards


This year, try to imagine the holiday season from your four-legged friend’s perspective: flashing lights and shiny tinsel to play with; a tasty turkey bone hidden in the trash can to munch on; a tree just waiting to be climbed… What’s wrong with this picture? The holiday trimmings we take for granted can become all-too tempting hazards for dogs and cats. Here’s how you can help make the holidays jolly for both you and your pets:

l Most important, try not to disrupt your companion animal’s daily routine. With all the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping, wrapping presents and baking goodies, you might forget to clean Kitty’s litter pan or take Waldo for a walk. But Waldo needs to do his business just the same, and the result of a missed walk could be a surprise present for you on the living room carpet. If an accident does happen, don’t punish your pooch. Instead, vow to spend more time caring for your companion.

l When decking the halls, remember prying paws. Cats, especially, have a hard time resisting ribbons and glittery tinsel, but, if swallowed, these and other decorations can block an animal’s digestive tract or even perforate intestinal walls. Never try to pull a string out of your animal’s mouth; the string could cut through the intestines. If your companion animal does swallow a holiday decoration, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Animals may think holly, mistletoe and poinsettia plants are part of a seasonal salad bar, but eating these greens could cause nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Spray a fine mist of hot sauce on plants to make them less palatable or, better yet, keep them out of your fuzzy friend’s reach.

Also use caution with Hanukkah and Kwanzaa candles, which can burn animals or start fires if tipped over.

To prevent Tootsie from rolling over with your Christmas tree—heirloom ornaments and all—anchor it to the ceiling or wall with nylon filament line. When you do decorate, don’t hang breakable ornaments on the lower branches (where animals can easily knock them off, then cut their paws on the broken glass), and don’t hang up ornaments with wire hooks (which can become lodged in an animal’s mouth or throat).

If your dog or cat seems drawn to sparkling tree lights, protect your pal from possible electric shock by using a circuit breaker at the plug-in outlet. Hide electric cords under the tree skirt or dab them with hot sauce to prevent animals from chewing them.

A decorative skirt can also help prevent animals from drinking the water in the tree stand, which may contain harmful tree sap and pine needles. Don’t use additives in the water—they can be toxic to animals.

Family and friends may not always know the best strategies for keeping animals inside when opening outside doors, so ask visitors to use caution. Make sure your animals are wearing identification tags—bearing your name, address and phone number–in case they do slip out and become lost.

Take a few minutes to teach your guests’ children about proper animal etiquette (don’t pull kitty’s tail or pick bunny up by her ears, for example), and remind them that, like people, animals need some quiet time alone. If children are too rambunctious for Tabby’s taste, you may want to keep your animals secured inside a bedroom. This will prevent animals from becoming stressed out and biting or scratching youngsters.

Be sure children and adults alike know not to share “junk food” with animals. Although candy and turkey bones may seem like harmless treats, these “delicacies” can be deadly. Chocolate, for instance, contains theobromine, an ingredient poisonous to dogs. Turkey and chicken bones splinter easily and can become lodged in an animal’s throat. Alcoholic beverages are especially tempting to dogs, who will often drink so much they become comatose.

If you’re like most people, you’ll probably give your companion animal a holiday present (a survey by the American Animal Hospital Association found that 79 percent of people give animals holiday and birthday treats). While it’s perfectly acceptable to give animals gifts, don’t give animals as gifts. The difficulties animals face while adjusting to a new home are compounded during the hectic holidays. Instead, wrap up a food bowl or collar and attach a note promising to help the recipient find a furry friend after the holidays. Most animal shelters and humane societies offer special holiday adoption gift certificates for this purpose.

By taking a few simple precautions, humans and animals alike can have a safe and merry holiday season.

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