Keeping Your Pets Safe During Holidays
The holiday season is a time of joy and celebration for many people, but it can also pose some risks and challenges for our furry friends. From festive foods to decorations and travel, there are many things that can harm or stress out our pets if we are not careful. Here are some tips on how to keep your pets safe and happy during the holidays.
Avoid Toxic Foods and Drinks
One of the most common hazards for pets during the holidays is ingesting something that they should not. Many human foods and drinks can be toxic or harmful to pets, such as chocolate, xylitol (amn artificial sweetener found in candy and gum), grapes, raisins, onions, garlic, alcohol, coffee, and bones. These can cause symptoms ranging from vomiting and diarrhea to seizures and organ failure. To prevent your pet from getting sick, keep these items out of their reach and ask your guests to do the same.
Do not feed your pet any table scraps or leftovers, and make sure to secure the lids on garbage cans.
If you suspect that your pet has eaten something toxic, contact your veterinarian or a poison control center immediately.
Be Careful with Plants and Decorations
Another potential danger for pets during the holidays is getting injured or sick from plants and decorations. Some seasonal plants, such as holly, mistletoe, poinsettias, and lilies, can be poisonous to pets if nibbled or eaten; lily pollen is especially toxic to cats. Artificial plants made from silk or plastic can be a safer alternative, or you can choose a pet-safe bouquet.
Christmas trees and holiday greens can also pose a threat to pets, as they can cause intestinal obstruction or puncture if ingested. Make sure to secure your tree so it does not tip over, and keep the water base covered, as it may contain fertilizers or bacteria.
Avoid using tinsel, as it can be very attractive to cats but can cause serious damage to their digestive tract. For the same reason, use yarn, ribbon or string instead of metal hooks to hang ornaments.
Keep wires, batteries, and glass or plastic ornaments away from your pet, as they can cause electric shock, burns, or cuts. Be especially careful with small "button batteries" that can be easily swallowed (a danger to young children as well as pets); seek immediate medical attention if a pet or child swallows one of these batteries.
Make sure electrical wires are in good condition, reasonably new and not frayed, and that lights strips don't contain broken bulbs. Grandpa's light strings might bring back fond memories, but they aren't up to today's safety standards, and may have dry-rotten insulation; it's best to leave those packed away. For added safety, use LED lights instead of incandescent lights, as they "burn" cooler and are usually made of shatter-resistant plastic. LEDs save energy too!
Do not leave candles unattended, as your pet may knock them over and cause a fire or burn themselves. Use battery-operated "flameless" candles for added safety.
Provide a Safe and Comfortable Environment
The holidays can be stressful for pets, especially if there are changes in their routine or environment. Loud noises, unfamiliar people, and travel can make your pet anxious or fearful.
To help your pet cope, provide them with a safe and comfortable place where they can retreat if they feel overwhelmed. This can be a bedroom, a crate, or a cozy bed with their favorite toys. Make sure they have access to fresh water and food, and try to maintain their normal exercise and play schedules.
Inform your visitors ahead of time that you have a pet, and ask them to respect your pet’s boundaries. Do not force your pet to interact with anyone if they do not want to.
Additionally, watch your pets around open doors. With lots of people coming and going, a pet prone to escaping can easily get out, and with a lot of activity, their absence might not be immediately noticed. Make sure your pets have collars with ID tags and are microchipped in case there's an escape.
Everyone loves a good fireworks display on New Year's, the Fourth of July, Diwali and other times -- but animals aren't big fans. Dogs and cats have been known to become so terrified of fireworks that they run away from home in a panic. In fact, more pets go missing around July Fourth than any other time of the year.
During holidays when fireworks will be common, keep your pets indoors, secure and confortable. Turn on a TV, radio or fan to provide some ambient sound to help drown out the noise outside. If you choose to take your pet to a fireworks display, be certain of its reaction to loud sounds, and secure it with a harness and leash.
Finally, if you have fireworks displays of your own, keep your pets far away!
If you are traveling with your pet, make sure they have proper identification and vaccination records, and check the regulations and requirements of your destination and mode of transportation. You may also want to consult your veterinarian about any medications or supplements that can help your pet relax during the trip.
By following these tips, you can ensure that your pet stays safe and healthy during the holidays, and that you both enjoy this festive season. Happy holidays!
Updated December 5, 2023
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