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Keeping Pets Safe This Holiday Season

With so many celebrations happening between now and the new year, there are ways to keep pets safe so they can enjoy the holidays,, too.

Here come the holidays!

Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Year's eve are all on their way and with them come festive foods, decor and entertainment unique to this time of year. However, not all holiday traditions are pet-healthy so here's a few tips to keep your dog and cat safe this season.

Decorations - As beautiful as they are, they can be deadly to pets. Dogs and cats use their mouths to explore the world and like young children, at times can't resist eating things that are simply not made to be eaten. Keep glass ornaments out of their reach. The water that keeps your Christmas tree fresh can poison your cat or dog if it contains resins, fertilizers or bacteria. Tinsel and garlands are tempting to play with and consume and once inside your pet can bunch up in their intestinal tract. If that happens, you'll be spending your holiday time and and any gift money at the vet paying for expensive surgery to save your pet's life. Keep an eye on your pets when they are near the Christmas tree and block off their access to decorated areas when you leave the house.

Food - One of the great joys of a holiday is sharing a feast with family and friends, but foods that are tasty to us can make pets sick. Cooked bones are a no-no any of time of year because they can splinter or, if swallowed in large chunks, cause a blockage that can only be removed by emergency surgery. Table scraps can be too rich for your pet to digest or, if they contain onions, can make them seriously ill. Onions contain thiosulphate, an ingredient that damages red blood cells in cats and dogs, creating a condition called hemolytic anemia. Symptoms include shortness of breath, vomiting and lethargy. It can take up to four days for symptoms to appear and it only takes a small amount of onion, raw or cooked, to poison your pet. Chocolate, another human holiday delight, is bad for our four-legged friends. Depending on the dosage, chocolate can cause seizures, hyperactivity, vomiting and diarrhea. Candies and gum that contain the sweetener xylitol can also cause seizures in pets. Never give a cat or dog beer or wine.

Flowers - Poinsettias area perennial favorite holiday plant to give and decorate with but are toxic to pets, as are mistletoe and holly. It will depend on how much of one they chew on or ingest but why risk an unscheduled trip to the animal hospital? Keep holiday flowers out of the reach of pets or decorate with non-toxic plants. When in doubt, do an internet search or ask your vet which plants are pet-safe.

Home for the holidays - Although July Fourth is the singular day of the year when, statistically, the largest number pets are lost or get out of their home or yard, the possiblility increases during most holidays. Guests or visting family members who may not close a door or gate properly, parties where people are coming and going, loud noises like fireworks -- all these contribute to the likelihood of an escaped pet. Collars that are taken off for holiday baths or that get lost or removed once the pet is out in the world make it harder for your cat or dog to get returned to you. Take precautions to keep your pet home for the holidays and take (some of) the worry out of finding a lost pet by micro chipping them. Micro chips are about the size of a grain of rice and they are painlessly injected under an animal's skin, near the neck/shoulder area. Scanning devices at vets, animal control, or county shelters read the info contained in the chip and make it simple to reunite you and your pet. Most vets offer this service and will charge from $40-$65 per micro chip. LifeLine Animal Project in Avondale Estates offers micro chipping for dogs and cats at their monthly Pet Wellness Day for $25, and that includes the registration information.

The holidays should be a happy time to gather with people and celebrate religious, cultural and/or family traditions. With a few precautions, your pets can enjoy this special time of year as much as you do.

Christina Haun Hurd November 21, 2011 at 01:30 PM
How does one keep cats away from the tree and which is safer, artificial or real tree?
Ralph Ellis November 21, 2011 at 06:40 PM
Good question, Christina. We'll try to answer this soon.
Therra C. Gwyn November 22, 2011 at 03:24 PM
Hi Christina! I had to ask Mickie Blair from LifeLine Animal Project to make sure I got a comprehensive answer to this. The truth is that Christmas Trees look like giant toys to most cats and are irresistable! Artificial trees are slightly better to use around cats than real ones, because you remove the temptation to drink the tree water, which is not good for pets. Some people use a product called Stay Away Motion-activated Pet Deterrent, which uses a sensor and will make a sound and blast a puff of air at cats when they cross into an area where you don't want them to go. For some cats just taking some clear carpet runner, turning it upside down and placing it around the tree works. The sharp plastic on the bottom that would normally make the runner "hold onto" carpet doesn't feel good on their paws and they avoid it. Good luck and let us know if you find a way that works for you!

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