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Holiday Hazards: Keeping your pets safe this Christmas
Posted on : 12/21/2012 06:15:19 AM

The festive season is in full swing. The tree is up, the decorations are out, and a few promised days of relaxation, friends, family, food and good times await us. However, for the fluffy or even scaly members of the family (and we don’t mean the in-laws) the holiday spirit can bring a Christmas cornucopia of potential holiday hazards. From inquisitive mouths with a taste for tinsel, to pavement licking pooches with a penchant for antifreeze; keeping our pets safe and sound this holiday should be at the top of every pet owner’s Christmas list. There are plenty of precautions you can take to avoid the unthinkable however, ensuring your beloved animals enjoy a healthy and happy holiday alongside you.

Decorations & Plants

Decorations, ribbons and wrapping are amongst the more obvious potential home hazards for pets during the festive season. With our homes decked out in fascinating, sparkly, hanging goodies; it’s of no wonder that inquisitive minds may be struck with curiosity and intrigue. For more investigative pets (particularly puppies!) the urge to play with or eat these new additions to the home might be too overwhelming to resist, and they can cause serious harm or even death when ingested. Using your discretion in these circumstances and ensuring that your decorations are either well out of reach, or well secured in place (such as the tinsel on your tree for example) is an important precaution to take. If you feel you can’t trust your pet to not feast on the Christmas tree during your absence, it would be safer to seal off that particular room altogether until you’re back home to keep an eye on things.

Fairly light wires are a less obvious danger, but a new wire can often be a tantalizing chewing opportunity for some animals. Ensuring all wires are inaccessible to your pets will keep them safe from potentially fatal electric shocks, whilst unplugging them altogether when you’re absent will keep them safe should they breach any blockade you may have fashioned.

Festive plants such as poinsettia, mistletoe and holly can all be poisonous when licked or eaten by pets, and should be kept well out of reach or avoided altogether. The same goes for genuine Christmas trees, which contain mild toxins and irritating plant oils. Opting for an artificial tree as an alternative is the safest option, and it will also be free of needles which can prove dangerous should they get lodged in an animal’s throat.

People Food

As much as we love to treat our pets during the festive season, giving in to that longing look from underneath the Christmas table and sharing your food isn’t always the wisest of gestures. Small bones found in turkeys are especially dangerous (so always be sure to keep it out of reach both before and after dinner) as are chocolates – which are poisonous to both cats and dogs, as well as rabbits and rodents. Always take extra precaution if you have them in advent calendars, on the tree or wrapped up as gifts (they will be sniffed out!). The grapes and raisons used in mince pies are also poisonous to dogs and can potentially cause kidney failure. In general, most festive food is far too rich for our pets and will often cause upset stomachs anyway; therefore it’s best to avoid giving them people food altogether, instead treating them to their own special festive nibbles which can easily be found in pet stores, or made by yourself (recipes for which can easily be found online).

If despite all your precautions and best efforts you suspect your pet may have gotten hold of something they shouldn’t have, be it décor, plants or forbidden food, then contact your veterinary clinic immediately for advice. Giving them a clear indication of the substance and the quantity you suspect has been ingested will be helpful to the vet, should this situation arise.

Pops & Bangs

A house full of mingling guests, snapping crackers and popping corks can frighten a lot of animals. If you plan to host a party during the holidays, make sure that your pets have somewhere quiet to retreat to, should they feel intimidated by the strange and merry people in their home.

Also, if your neighbourhood is fond of letting off fireworks over Christmas and the New Year celebrations, it’s always wise to keep animals in doors. Playing music in your home will help disguise the unusual sounds outside, distracting your pet and allowing them to remain calmer.

The pet perils of a winter wonderland

In many countries the temperatures plummet to dangerously low levels over the festive season, and for pets that frequent the great outdoors, conditions such as frostbite or hypothermia are very real risks. Protecting your cats by keeping them indoors at night (or altogether when temperatures are at their lowest) will keep them safe from an icy end, and will help discourage them from sleeping against dangerously hot car engines. When it comes to dogs, take extra care when walking near ponds, lakes, and rivers, and ensure they’re kept on a leash at all times – no matter how obedient they usually are. There have been many instances of dogs falling through the ice into freezing waters, and dedicated pet owners perishing whilst trying to save them.

With icy roads better equipped for Torvill and Dean than Toyottas and Daewoos, tackling the ice with salt or occasionally antifreeze is common place within our communities. Both of these substances can be lethal to pets when ingested, so always keep an eye on what your pooch licks when you take a stroll through the winter wonderland.

With America spending a hefty $5 billion annually on Christmas gifts for their pets, it’s a clear indication that many of us view them with perhaps as much adoration as we do our human family members. As with human family members, taking every precaution to keep them out of harms way is of no less importance. So double check that décor, protect against those plants, resist dishing out the people food, and be wary of the weather. Make it a safe, healthy and happy festive season which is memorable for the right reasons – and not an emergency trip to the vets!

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