Pet Holiday Safety: Tips to keep your party animals safe for the holidays
It’s that time of year again.
For all the fun and festivities, however, the winter holiday season can be a treacherous time for household pets. Trees, ornaments, holiday foods, and even presents can be serious safety and health hazards for dogs and cats.
Candles may provide a nice mood, but they can burn a pet and much more if they get knocked over. By the eighth night of Hanukah, a menorah might as well be a flame thrower. The scents from candles and sachets can be harmful to birds. Liquid potpourri looks and smells tasty to a cat but a few licks can cause serious chemical burns.
The point is: Even the most sweet, innocent items become serious dangers when pets are around. Here’s some things you ought to know:
Way back in the 1970s, a natural foods pioneer named Euell Gibbons had a line that became famous on his ubiquitous Grape Nuts cereal commercials: “Ever eat a pine tree? Many parts are edible.”
While Grape Nuts may be good for you, pine trees are decidedly a health hazard to pets wanting to chomp on something new and exciting in the house.
- Tree water may contain fertilizers and bacteria that will give your pet nausea or diarrhea.
- Pine needles may look like delicious chew treats but the needles can puncture an animal’s intestines if ingested.
- Edible ornaments like cranberries or popcorn strings are “time bombs waiting to happen,” according to PetMD. Besides the dangers of eating them, cats playing with these dangling things can pull on them and knock the tree over.
Artificial trees may not be edible but they still share some dangers with real ones:
- They can both get knocked over. Consider putting your tree in a corner so it’s less accessible, or put something noisy around the bottom (like tin foil) so the noise will deter an approach — or at least warn you someone is getting too close for comfort.
- Flashing lights are a huge tease but pets can get tangled up in the wires (see ‘knocking tree down’) or electrocuted by chewing through them.
- What could be cuter than kitty all wrapped in tinsel and playing with a shiny ornament (see picture below)? But ingesting tinsel can block a cat’s or dog’s intestines, requiring surgery to fix. Broken ornaments can cut paws, mouths, and other body parts.
Watch a video with cats climbing in Xmas trees — plus more videos with expert safety tips.
With so many new and exotic goodies around the table, your dog or cat won’t want to miss out. You know your pets’ proper diet, and while you may be one of those lenient pet parents who allows the occasional people food treat, that can be a health hazard at holiday time. Don’t let your guests feed your pets scraps, no matter how much they (pets or people) beg.
Many very common foods — used in abundance at holiday time — can be poisonous and even fatal to pets. Fatty foods like turkey skin and gravy can cause pancreatitis (see comment on guests above). Turkey strings and pop-up thermometers look like tasty treats to a pet but can block its intestines.Don’t leave plates of leftovers lying around on low tables (or high ones either, if you have cats). Make sure your garbage bags are closed and inaccessible; gravy-stained tin foil tastes good but can cut up your pet’s insides. Turkey bones can break or splinter and cause similar damage.
Onions — a common ingredient in stuffing — are toxic to dogs, and chocolate (especially dark or baking chocolate) can actually kill a dog. Grapes and raisins cause kidney failure in dogs and cats. Alcohol is highly toxic, possibly fatal, so don’t leave half-finished cocktails lying around. Cats especially like eggnog.
Colorful red poinsettias are not as poisonous as many pet parents think, but mistletoe, holly, poinsettia, lilies, and other holiday plants will cause nausea and vomiting at best. Mistletoe berries are highly toxic, and lilies are outright deadly to cats.
Costumes and Toys
Who can resist dressing up their dog or cat or hamster in a cute little holiday costume? Well, lots of people; but still, pet costumes are increasingly popular these days. Just make sure any costume is safe and comfortable, and doesn’t hang down for your pet to trip over. Never tie anything around your pet’s neck that could choke or strangle him. (Style Pets products are designed with both comfort and safety in mind.)
Your dog will like its new chew toy but also want to chew on your own gifts. Think of them as children and follow the same safety advice, like keeping them away from small parts and hazardous substances.
Some pets are real party animals and love having company over for holiday celebrations. They’ll be the hit of the party. Others want nothing to do with it and will spend your holiday parties hiding in a closet. They will be the safest of all.
No matter how much your pet enjoys the occasion, however, holiday parties can be stressful for pets. All those new people, the noise, the commotion, the bright lights.
Let your guests know how your pets act and how to act around them; encourage them to pet and play with them if both are so inclined. It’s a party, after all.
Good behavior goes both ways. In addition to safety caveats for humans, the Association of Professional Dog Trainers provides good tips on training your dog to respond to the influx of visitors arriving at your door. PetEducation.com has some good tips just for cat owners.
In any case, always provide your pets with a comfort zone: a safe, quiet room where they can retreat and there’s plenty of water and their own good food and toys. You will both be the happier for it.
Got some tips to add? Let us know in the comments below.
Here are some sites with comprehensive and detailed information about pet safety for the holidays:
ASPCA: “Holiday Safety Tips”
American Humane Association: “Holiday Issues”
Pet Poison Helpline: “Winter Holiday Pet Poison Tips”
• 24/7 Emergency Helpline: 855-764-7661 ($39 fee per incident)