This holiday season take a few moments to check the safety of your home and to help keep your animal companions safe from potentially hazardous items and situations.
The Home Environment
Many plants can be poisonous including amaryllis, holly, azalea, philodendron, Easter Lily, and mistletoe. Even the decorative items florists add, such as ribbon and ornamentation, pose as threats to curious pets. Ingested ribbon or small items may cause intestinal blockage, while entangled ribbon or cording can choke playful companions.
Scented candles, potpourri, adhesives and glues are often attractive to pets yet can be dangerous. Lit candles and decorative matches can cause burns or start fires if knocked over. The essential oils used in potpourri and candles are very concentrated, and can be toxic if ingested. Cats, especially, may be attracted to and susceptible to glues, adhesives, and small decorative items.
The Christmas Tree
Cats and dogs can be very attracted to the Christmas Tree, whether it is fresh or artificial. Dogs are known for pulling on the branches or trying to use the needles as scratching tools on those hard-to-reach itchy places, while cats may look upon the trunk and branches as climbing playgrounds. Take precautions to use a stable tree stand and make sure the tree is secure and balanced, and if necessary, a protective mesh layered on the inside lower branches to prevent trunk climbing. Sometimes scented repellents, such as citrus or pine, may be helpful. But remember to only use safely diluted products or in places unreachable by curious cats and dogs.
Use only quality decorative lights. If you have a young puppy or kitten or a pet that is intrigued by electrical cords, consider bitter, anti-chewing training repellents to spray exposed cords or just forgo lighting to protect your pet from electrical shock.
Hang small or fragile ornaments high – away from extended paws, and larger more durable ornaments near the bottom. Many pet owners find that leaving the lower third tree empty of ornaments, removes a great deal of the potential for problems. Yet, precaution still should be taken with fragile ornaments, small ornaments or those with small pieces. Icicles should never be used, due to the risk of ingestion and potential for intestinal blockages. Food decorations and tinsel are especially attractive to pets and just invitations to trouble.
A Fun Alternative
Give your cat or dog their own tree. Bargain for a smaller tree or use left over branches and bind together or weave into an upside down tomato cage – do not use the cage with chewing puppies or destructive dogs and be sure to cover any sharp points. Then hang treats, catnip toys, balls or any pet toy just for their enjoyment!
Foods & Treats
Rich and fatty foods, we often indulge in and are guilted into sharing, can lead to a range of problems from digestive distress to more serious pancreatitis. Alcohol and chocolate can be life threatening. Make sure candy and leftovers are kept out of paw reach. This goes for wrapped and boxed items, too! Remember to also keep your garbage in a sealed container to prevent access.
Commotion & Stress
Visiting can be a fun time for many pets, while others become too excited, fearful or frightened. If your pet is uncomfortable around guests, place him/her in a quiet area or separate room away from activity. If the animal is used to a crate, make sure this is available to offer security and comfort, along with fresh water, food, toys, and a litter box (if appropriate). Natural calming remedies may be beneficial with helping your pet through difficult times. Then, when guests have gone, spend some quality time with your pet and relax!
With the commotion of visitors, stressed pets have been known to slip out. Make sure your pet has current tags, is tattooed, and or microchipped to help expedite identification. If traveling with your pets, make sure to carry a recent photograph and any pertinent medical information.
Toys & Gifts
Remember to purchase items made especially for pets. Reputable pet product manufacturers have gone to great efforts to make pet toys more durable, free of hazardous pieces, and designed for different sizes and breeds.
First Aid & Emergencies
First aid may range from something as simple as comforting your pet to assessing a trauma situation. Be prepared to act knowing and effectively until veterinary can be reached. First aid guidebooks and kits are available for home care and when traveling. If you suspect poisoning, contact an emergency clinic, the nearest poison control center, or the National Animal Poison Control, 1-800-548-2423.
Visiting can be a fun time for many pets, while others become too excited, fearful or frightened. If your pet is uncomfortable around guests, place him/her in a quiet area or separate room away from activity.