12 Tips to Insure Safe Holidays for Pets


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Here are 12 safety tips to insure your pets enjoy a healthy and safe holiday:

12) Candles Burn Bright: Curiosity can kill. If a candle is knocked over, a house fire can start. A pet can get singed brushing against a candle. Scented candles, which you may think of as benign, can be life-threatening to birds due their sensitive respiratory systems.

11) Good Housekeeping: Some pets, especially puppies and kittens, like to munch on errant Christmas tree needles. They can choke on them, or they can cause a serious upset tummy. Birds can perch on plastic trees, but they shouldn’t be allowed to munch on plastic needles.

10) Avoid Prickly Christmas Trees: When choosing a tree, consider one with pet-friendly pliable needles – such as a Douglas fir or white pine. They won’t stick in your pet’s paws. (They’re also easier to vacuum).

9) Beware Where You Kiss: Kissing under the mistletoe is quite romantic but keep fresh mistletoe out of your pet’s reach since fresh mistletoe is toxic. Poinsettia plants aren’t likely to be the life-threatening hazard some in the media have portrayed, though still not at all a healthy treat.

8) Stress Is Contagious:  Holiday time is frenetic; you’re behind in your holiday shopping; you have parties to attend; you have out of town guests and your boss expects you to finish a project before Christmas. Totally stressed out; there’s no time – not even for your best friend with four legs or feathers. As a result, the pet picks up on our anxiety, and their schedules are askew. The result: Stressed out pets. Try the best you can to least spend some time outside playing with the dog, or using an interactive toy to entice your cat to chase and pounce. Or talk to your bird about your mean boss and your crazy schedule. All this may be a cathartic outlet for you, and a way to at least continue to give your pets some attention. They’re worth it, and you’re worth it.

7) Meet The Relatives: Some pets are social butterflies, others not so much. A constant flow of relatives can be traumatic. Don’t force the pets to interact with Aunt Gloria and Uncle Jay if they don’t want to. With Uncle Jay’s cigar smoke –  which the pets aren’t accustomed – and Aunt Gloria chasing them around to give hugs, they may be happier behind a closed door. It fact, it may be most fair to seclude anxious pets in a sanctuary room, like a den, second bedroom or basement. Plug in a pheromone diffuser (to diffuse stress), such as Adaptil (for dogs) or Feliway (for cats) and offer distracting games in food puzzles. Also, pump up classical music or easy listening tunes like the “Sounds of Silence” to hopefully minimize the sounds of squabbling family members.

6) Deck The Halls: We all suffer from the ‘grandma syndrome,’ expressing love by feeding our pets treats. The truth is that a little tidbit of turkey, chicken or ham – and certainly some slices of carrot or apple – aren’t likely to harm your pet. However, the problem arises when you overdo it. After all, a 150 lb. person scarfing down five slices of turkey meat is no big deal. While a German shepherd dog might be able to eat that much without stomach upset, a diminutive Yorkshire Terrier or a cat might pay the price. Small animals have small tummies; a few slices is like you eating half a bird. Sometimes several well-meaning guests simultaneously sneak food to your pets when you’re not looking, so the pets are getting far too much more than you think. Also, eating fat or skin can lead to dangerous and painful pancreatitis. Bones can splinter and get lodged or cause an obstruction and may be life threatening. Keep the trash out of reach.

5) Holiday Treats To Die For: Be sure not to wrap Aunt Sally’s chocolate brownies for dieting Santa, at least if pets are nearby. The concern is that Aunt Sally used a sugar substitute called Xylitol in an effort to keep Santa trim, but that’s very dangerous to pets, and so the chocolate (especially dark chocolate). Also, keep a watchful eye on the guacamole, which can make birds very ill.

4) Tinsel and Ribbon: Cats love playing with tinsel, and they can knock down an entire tree as they pull on tinsel or ornaments hanging from branches. Secure your tree. Cats and puppies are so fascinated by tinsel and ribbon they may make a meal of it, which keeps veterinarians in emergency surgery on Christmas Day. Ingesting tinsel can be life-threatening.

3) Keep Cats Off: A small latticework fence around the base of the tree will prevent cats from being able to climb.

2) No Sugar Plums In the Water: Don’t add chemical preservatives or anything else to the water at the base of your tree to prolong its life.  Homemade family recipes or those found if you Google include bizarre additives, such as chicken soup, Vitamin C, dog urine (yuck!), bleach or even birth control pills. Aside from potentially making that water your tree sits in dangerous for a pet to drink, experts say there’s nothing you can add that’s likely to make your tree last longer. A tree-stand skirt prevents your pet from drinking this water.

1) Everyone Gets a Present: As the family gathers to open presents, include all family members, even pets.

Happy Howlidays!

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Steve Dale is a certified animal behavior specialist who has been a trusted voice in the world of pet health for over 20 years. You have likely heard him on the radio, read him in print and online, and seen him speaking at events all over the world. His contributions to advancing pet wellness have earned him many an award and recognition around the globe.

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