You can help keep pets safe during the holiday season by following the tips below.
* Many holiday plants can lead to health problems in dogs and cats. Among the plants to keep out of reach are holly, mistletoe, poinsettias and lilies.
* Snow globes often contain antifreeze, which is poisonous to pets.
* Pine needles, when ingested, can puncture holes in a pet’s intestine. So keep pet areas clear of pine needles.
* The extra cords and plugs of holiday lights and other fixtures can look like chew toys to pets. Tape down or cover cords to help avoid shocks, burns or other serious injuries. Unplug lights when you are not home.
* Anchor Christmas trees to the ceiling if possible with a string to keep it from falling on pets.
* Do not let pets drink the holiday tree water. Some may contain fertilizers, and stagnant tree water can harbor bacteria. Check labels for tree water preservatives and artificial snow, and buy only those that are nontoxic. Some folks use screens around trees to block access to electrical cords and gifts.
Very important: do not put aspirin in the water (some folks do this thinking it will keep the tree or plant more vigorous). If a pet ingests the aspirin-laced water, his health or even life can be at risk.
* Pets, particularly cats, can be tempted to eat tinsel, which can block the intestines. Hang tinsel high and securely to keep it out of reach of pets.
* Keep other ornaments out of reach of pets. Ingestion of any ornament, which might look like toys to pets, can result in life-threatening emergencies. Even ornaments made from dried food can lead to ailments. And remember, shards from broken glass ornaments can injure paws, mouths and other parts of the body.
* Put away toys after children open their gifts. Small plastic pieces and rubber balls are common causes of choking and intestinal blockage in dogs. Ingested plastic or cloth toys must often be removed surgically.
* Avoid toxic decorations. Bubbling lights contain fluid that can be inhaled or ingested, snow sprays and snow flock can cause reactions when inhaled, Styrofoam poses a choking hazard, tinsel can cause choking and intestinal obstruction, and water in snow scenes may contain toxic organisms such as Salmonella.
* Keep candles on high shelves. Use fireplace screens to avoid burns.
* Holiday guests and other activity can be very stressful and even frightening to pets. It can also trigger illness and intestinal upset. Make sure pets have a safe place to retreat in your house. And make sure they are wearing current I.D. in case they escape out a door when guests come and go.
* Reduce stress by keeping feeding and exercise on a regular schedule.
* Always make time to care for your pets. Some folks get lax about walking their dogs, and a few resort to letting pets out on their own. This puts the animal in danger, while also leading to nuisance complaints and dog bite incidents. Remind pet owners not to take a holiday from responsibly caring for their pets.
* When pets are stressed by holiday activity or during travel, they may require more water. Dogs typically pant more when they feel stressed. Keep fresh water available for them to drink.
* Do not let guests feed your pet’s human food. There are many holiday foods, including fatty meats, gravies, poultry skin, bones, chocolate and alcohol that can cause illnesses from vomiting and diarrhea to highly serious pancreatitis and other toxic reactions. In addition, candy wrappers, aluminum foil pieces and ribbons can choke pets.
* Keep pets away from gift packages as well as your gift wrapping area. Ingested string, plastic, cloth and even wrapping paper can lead to intestinal blockage and require surgical removal. And pets have been severely injured by scissors and other items left on floors and tables.
* Keep pets away from the garbage. Use pet-proof containers.
* If you suspect that your pet has eaten something toxic, glass, broken plastic, staples or other small, sharp objects, call your veterinarian
* By the way, now is a good time to double-check smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and other safety devices and replace batteries. Safety, of course, is the key reason — but here’s another good reason. When batteries run low, the devices often emit alert or alarm sounds at frequencies that can be painful and frightening to many pets. If you’re not home when the alert/alarm sounds, your animals will have to endure that sound until you return, which can be traumatic. So always keep fresh batteries in those devices.