- Stress is often associated with the holiday season and pets feel it, too. That is one of the reasons that it is best to avoid giving pets as gifts during the holidays. But, it is equally as important that we protect the pets we already have from the stress of parties and unfamiliar guests. They will behave better when they are not stressed and keeping them in a different part of the house away from the action is a good start.
- Candles & open flames are a danger because they can easily catch a pet's fur on fire. This is more common with cats catching their tails on fire. Either safely secure your pets in another part of the house or use battery candles--many of which look very realistic when "lit". Another bonus is that battery candles won't bother anyone who is sensitive to candle smoke or scented candles.
- Candy dishes filled with chocolate containing theobromine and diabetic candies sweetened with Xylitol pose a risk because both theobromine and Xylitol are toxic to pets. Even relatively small amounts can kill or seriously sicken pets.
- Christmas trees must be securely anchored as cats often climb them causing them to tip over. Real trees often have chemicals added to their water reservoirs to extend tree freshness. Be sure to cover the reservoir so that pets will not drink the water. Most artificial trees are made from PVC which is a type of plastic. Most rabbits and occasionally, cats and dogs like to chew the tree branches so, be aware and prepared to keep your pets out of that room for the holiday season if they exhibit any signs that they are going to chew the tree. The pieces can cause digestive upset or blockages along the digestive tract requiring surgery or causing death.
- Tinsel and icicles are problematic for the same reasons as artificial trees. If you have cats, I strongly urge you to avoid decorating your tree with icicles and tinsel altogether. It's too tempting for cats and it can kill them.
Photo: John Vargas
- Christmas tree lights aren't nearly as dangerous as they used to be with the old, larger, more breakable bulbs but the cords are still an issue. Be sure to safely secure excess cord within cord keepers to discourage pets from chewing them. They can get shocked or electrocuted. In addition, a partially chewed cord can overheat and cause a house fire.
- Glass ornaments are sparkly, shiny, and fragile. More importantly, cats can't resist batting them around and occasionally off the tree. If you must use glass ornaments, please hang them out of pets' reach to lessen the chance that they will be a temptation and get broken injuring little paws.
- Eggnog is very tempting to dogs. Be cautious about cups of eggnog and other drinks during parties. It only takes Fido a few seconds to lap up an entire drink. Other dogs are even drawn to straight hard liquor. My family once had a dog who would try as hard as she could to get bourbon. Beer is obviously something that you need to watch because most dogs love it. Tipsy pets are not cute. They can die from ingesting alcohol.
- The door is a danger because we are generally more social during the holiday season and have more guests and parties. With that many people going in and out, pets are more likely to slip out unnoticed. It's best to keep pets safely secured in another part of the house during parties. They'll be safe, you'll have your peace of mind, and guests who might be allergic or nervous around animals will be more comfortable. In addition, it is always advisable to have identification and contact information on your pets' collars even if your pets have been microchipped.
- There are lots of house plants that can be a danger to pets but during the holidays, people often bring in additional, festive plants that they may not realize are toxic to pets. Poinsettias, holly, mistletoe, and some varieties of lily should be kept away from pets. Please keep a list of toxic plants so that you can make informed choices at the nursery. http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/pets/poisonous_plants.pdf http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control/plants/
- Ribbons, strings, and cords look like toys to cats and they will play with them and chew them. Some cats are more prone than others to ingesting strings. Siamese cats or cats who are known to have pica are the frequent offenders but all cats tend to exhibit that behavior at times. Please keep anything that resembles a string away from cats because they can entangle the digestive organs and require surgery or cause death. It's better to be safe than sorry.
- Overindulgence is always an issue with pets but guests may not realize how many yummies Fluffy has had that day and by the end of the night she might be waddling around full of kibble and an array of whatever you served during your party. If your pets are out and about during a get-together, please advise guests to not feed them--no matter how much they may beg.
- Bones from ribs, chicken, etc. are a choking hazard so be sure to secure all garbage can lids so that your pets won't have access.
May you and your family--including your pets have a safe & joyous holiday season!