Thanks to Leslie Spencer-Snider for these great tips!
Everyone enjoys the holidays, from Christmas, New Years through Fourth of July, and Halloween including your Pets, but the holiday decorations and foods can be deadly for your cat and/or dog. Here are 12 tips to help you make the holidays safer for your pets. Published with permission from Alternative Training Methods.
1. • Bright lights, Christmas and now Fourth of July and Halloween have bright lights hanging around windows and trees that pets can become tangled up in and choke or the pet may pull the lights down and become trapped in the cords or the tree. Look at the placement of decorative lights to prevent such accidents. Wrap light cords around the base of the tree to reduce entanglement hazard. Another hazard may occur when a pet is in a chewing stage where they may try to chew the cord and/or extension cord with the lights and become a victim to 110 volt electrocution that is often times fatal. Take the time to conceal all cords or tape them to the ground so curious pets are not able to get to the electrical cords.
2. • Christmas Trees are unstable unless they are secured at the top and the bottom so that no pet can knock the tree over. Fallen trees can be a fire hazard or break windows. Another solution is to place a tree on top of a table away from dogs wagging tails. Just make sure the tree is well anchored so jumping pets do not succeed in knocking the tabletop tree over.
3. • Tree and cut flower water is another hazard for pets. Most companies sell additives to put in the water to prolong the life of the cut tree/flower. That additive is often something that can make your pet sick or fatally poison them. Use just plain water with some clear soda pop added for freshness. Your pet may still drink it but won’t become poisoned. Better yet, place such decorations in areas that your pet is not able to access.
4. • Fire hazards can come from candles and fire places. Do not place candles in areas that cats can knock them over or swing a tail into and catch their tail on fire. Don’t let anyone put a candle low enough that a dog can hit with their tail or jump up onto by a couch. Buy a sturdy fire screen for your fireplace to keep your pets away from the flames and to keep them from becoming curious about the embers and coals that can burn the pets’ paws or from eating the ashes and becoming sick.
5. • Plants such as Mistletoe, Holly, Poinsettias, Ornamental Pepper, Christmas Rose or Herbs such as Thyme and Nutmeg (in large quantities) are poisonous to pets. Although some pets may have chewed on a plant and not shown any adverse reaction another pet may chew the same plant and become extremely sick or even die. If you must have such plants in your home be sure to place them in areas the pet cannot reach. Do not leave herbs in areas that young pets may get into and try to eat.
6. • Decorations such as tinsel, ribbons, bows, wrapping paper, garlands, and strings of cranberries or popcorn can cause choking, internal injuries, emergency surgeries for intestinal blockages and other digestive problems if swallowed. The only safe avenue is to prevent problems by keeping such items away from curious puppies and kittens. Teach pets to leave such things alone by saying “uh, uh” every time the pet tries to sniff any of these items.
7. • Glass ornaments hanging from trees, crystal bowls filled with candy, hurricane lamps and/or statues on shelves can cause severe cuts to paws if knocked on the ground where broken shards can be stepped on. Some curious pets try to eat anything including glass which can cause a trip to the emergency room to repair cut tongues, esophagus’s, stomachs, intestines as the glass travels the digestive track. Animals can die from eating such items. Never leave glass in areas that your pets could get into and knock over or eat.
8. • Gifts wrapped up and left under the tree or gifts for a birthday may contain food or something else that smells interesting to your pets. Do not leave such gifts out where pets can get into them and tell family and friends to give you some type of warning when a gift is NOT pet safe! It is better to spoil a surprise than have to take a pet to the emergency room!
9. • Alcoholic beverages left in glasses on coffee tables smell sweet to pets. It is better to leave your pets in a room away from a party so the pets will not be able to get into an unattended alcoholic beverage. Be sure to clean the area of any drink glasses before you let your pet out and it never hurts to explain to your guests that glasses need to be kept out of reach of animal noses. The owner is the final protector of the pet and will need to monitor guests who may think it is funny to give a pet a “sip” of a drink. Never feel bad about keeping your pet safe!
10. • Chocolate, macadamia nuts, raisins, grapes, onions and other foods are poisonous for dogs and cats. Sweeteners such as Xylitol are also deadly to dogs. Do not let any poisonous foods be within nose reach of your pets. Closely monitor children who may think they want to “share” their holiday treats with the pets. Explain that pets are different from us and they can NOT eat all the same things that we do. Sometimes adults need to have some instruction on food safety as well!
11. • Noise makers, loud music and firecrackers are hazardous to your pets in a different way. Some pets are nervous about loud noises and may become so disoriented and scared that when they are startled by a loud noise they will bolt. When an animal is scared their survival instinct will kick in telling them to run away from that noise. No matter how much you call them they will not respond because their hearing has shut down and their only thought is to run as fast as they can. Once the adrenaline has stopped they will start looking around but the pet has usually run so far and fast they are outside of their normal zone and are unable to find their way back. This is worse if you are visiting someone and your pet is in a totally new area. Keep your pet in a room with soft music playing to minimize fright from loud noises if you must be away from them during such times. If your pet has a panic attack during such celebratory times then you should speak to your veterinarian about having a sedative on hand to give your pet before the firecrackers go off! It is helpful to seek a behaviorist to help with desensitizing techniques but keep in mind that you need to allow weeks of training before the pet will get better.
12. • Be careful about your garbage. Pets that have never gotten into the garbage before will be tempted to when there is interesting, tantalizing odors from a garbage bag. Take extra care to wrap up items such as turkey laces, bones, drippings from any meats and wrappers from food packaging. Putting such things in an extra bag and then making sure to take the bag of garbage out to the dumpster before you go to bed will help keep your pets safe. Take one more precaution for the stray animals and wildlife in your area by making sure your garbage dumpster is animal proof. You may just prevent a stray or wild animal from getting in to it and possibly dying.
By taking a few extra precautions before the holiday starts and then supervising closely during the festivities, you and your pets should be able to have a fun holiday time.