Tis the season! Before you start breaking out the tree and filling your belly with eggnog, remember to be conscientious of your four-legged friends. It’s easy to make sure your pets have a wonderful holiday season, but it’s just as easy for things to go sour during the chaotic time of year. These helpful pawliday pet safety tips will ensure that everyone has a purrr-fect holiday season!
Preparing Your Home
Christmas trees, lights, tinsel, ornaments, candles, and more can be problematic for pets. When decorating your home, it is important to keep a few things in mind.
- Trees and Plants: Make sure your tree (real or faux) is secured properly since most animals can easily knock it over. If you have a real tree, be aware that the water base may contain fertilizers and preservatives that can be harmful and lead to an upset stomach. Stagnant tree water is also a breeding ground for bacteria, which can cause nausea or diarrhea if ingested. Similarly, plants like holly, ivy, poinsettias, and mistletoe can be poisonous to pets. Keep these out of reach or opt for artificial plants made from silk or plastic.
- Lights and Decorations: When decorating your tree, make sure the tinsel and lights are draping away from the bottom where pets can’t reach them. Tinsel and shiny ornaments are attractive but not always in a good way. If caught and swallowed by your pet, it can lead to an obstructed digestive tract, dehydration, and vomiting. It is equally important to keep wires and batteries out of paws’ reach. Wires from lights or other decorations can deliver a hazardous electrical shock and a chewed-up battery can cause burns to the mouth and esophagus.
- Fireplace and Candles: Is there anything better than the smell of a warm fire or holiday candle burning? It is a staple in any household during the winter months but can easily be used in excess if not careful. Never leave your fireplace or candles unattended! Pets are notoriously curious and may accidentally burn themselves, knock over a candle and start a fire or become covered wax. Keep your fireplace secured when not in use as your pet might be enticed to chew on logs that contain paraffin and sawdust. And remember if you are leaving the house, put the fire out!
Holiday Foods to Avoid
Nothing is more tempting than slipping your pet some treats from the table, however just because it is the holiday season doesn’t mean it is a good idea. People food can still upset your pet’s stomach and can lead to severe illness.
- Turkey and ham: These are typically fatty meats so try to keep sharing them to a minimum.
- Bones: As always, bones easily splinter and can cause serious health problems (even death).
- Candy and nuts: Especially chocolate—is toxic to dogs and cats. The safest thing to do is avoid all candy, especially candies containing the toxic sweetener Xylitol (which is found in many candies).
- Coffee: In addition to candy, coffee can also be a popular Christmas gift item you want to keep off the ground (also avoid coffee grounds and beans).
- Citrus: Keep foods containing citric acid away from your pets.
- Grapes and raisins: These are notorious for causing kidney problems.
- Trash: With the overflow of holiday feast waste, pets who participate in trash-digging are more likely to accidentally eat foods that are potentially poisonous to them. Keep trash hidden and hard to access.
Keeping Your Pets Inside
As the cold weather months approach, remember to keep your pets inside! Though the excitement of new guests and gatherings can overwhelm some pets, it is important to keep them inside and make sure to provide plenty of toys to keep them busy. If your pet shows signs of distress or anxiety, try creating a safe space in a separate room in the house. You should inform any visitors that you have a pet so they can be aware as well. This can help encourage a nice play session between your pet and guests that will give them some extra attention while you’re busy hosting the party.
During the busiest travel time of the year, it is important to carefully consider whether to take your pet with you on a trip or not. If you typically leave your pets at home while you travel, be sure to get a pet sitter or boarding kennel scheduled in advance. Most places will be completely booked if you don’t reach out ASAP. If you are going to be away from your pet (cats and dogs specifically) for any period of time, make sure they have their collars and tags with ID to ensure proper identification.
Be aware of your pet hospital or clinic’s holiday hours! If you suspect your pet got into something they shouldn’t have, please call University Veterinary Hospital in Berkeley, CA at 510-841-4412 or the ASPCA poison control center at (888) 426-4435.