2011-12-22 / Features

Holiday Safety For Pets

While people are ho-hoho ing and hustling and bustling, pets may not be as enamored with the holiday season as their human counterparts. That's because, amid the blur of activities that fill the season, there are potential sources of stress and dangers to pets.

What can be so dangerous about holiday festivities and decorations? A lot, according to veterinarians and pet advocacy experts. The ASPCA, among other groups, warns of the toxic items and unhealthy treats that abound this time of year.

Approximately 1,300 people are treated each year in emergency rooms for injuries related to holiday lights. Another 6,200 are treated for injuries related to holiday decorations and Christmas trees. These injuries are occurring to people who know better. Just think about the pets that do not understand the dangers around them. Pet parents have to be responsible for their animals' safety, too.

Everything from snow globes to tinsel can wreak havoc on pets' delicate intestinal systems. Many holiday plants, like holly and poinsettia, contain oils that can be fatal to pets if consumed. Snow globes often contain antifreeze, which is well known as toxic to pets. Snow sprays and snow flock contain chemicals that can be irritants if inhaled or consumed. Tinsel and pine needles can cause choking and intestinal obstruction if consumed by smaller animals, like cats and rodents.

Decorative glassware, trinkets and other breakables can prove hazardous to animals. Inquisitive dogs and cats may break glass ornaments and be cut by shards of glass. It's easy for lit candles to be knocked over and even Christmas trees to be pulled down by boisterous pets. Water kept in Christmas tree stands and other decor may harbor harmful microorganisms or chemicals that become dangerous if lapped up. Cords and lights may look like chew toys to rodents, dogs and cats, who can become electrocuted or strangled while investigating.

Many pets have stolen a piece of people food from here or there or have been offered some table scraps. There are some items that can be dangerous during the holidays and year round. Beware of feeding pets fatty meats, gravies, poultry skin, poultry bones, chocolate, and alcohol. These items can cause illnesses from vomiting and diarrhea to highly serious pancreatitis and other toxic reactions. Remove trash from the house regularly while entertaining to ensure pets don't get inside of garbage cans and trash bags to steal scraps. When eating, keep pets out of the dining area and maintain a close eye on scavengers who might leap for dishes at the edges of tables. Gifts, like food baskets and boxes of chocolates, should be kept out of reach of pets. Buy pet-safe treats to reward animals so they will not be inclined to steal snacks.

Having a houseful of people can be stressful on pets who are not used to the company. Talk with a veterinarian to see if a mild sedative or anti- anxiety medication might be helpful. Otherwise, keep pets contained in a quiet room away from guests if they are prone to skittishness. Try to keep feeding and watering schedules consistent so the pets will have the comfort of their routines. Be sure to spend time with the animals so they are not feeling neglected while you're running here and there.

The holidays can be a wonderful time of year to share with your pets, but safety should never be too far out of mind when preparing for the season.

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