The holidays are a wonderful time of the year. Friends and family surround us and everyone is in good spirits. There are trees to be decorated and presents to be wrapped and food to be eaten and songs to be sung. Amidst all this wonderful chaos it’s easy to forget about the four-legged members of the family, but many of the things that make this time of year so enjoyable for us humans are, unfortunately, things that can make Christmas a very dangerous time of the year for our pets.
For example, the beautiful tree adorned so gloriously with lights, tinsel, and ornaments may be the centerpiece of your festively decorated living room, but it’s just a climbing challenge to Tiger and an indoor toilet stuck in a big water bowl to Rover. Besides causing a mess if the cat decides to scale it or the dog decides to “christen” it, a Christmas tree is also potentially dangerous to pets. If the water in the tree stand has been treated with commercial chemicals or aspirin to keep the tree fresh, pets can become very sick if they drink it. Additionally, many pets won’t hesitate to pick ornaments directly off trees and use them as chew toys. While all ornaments pose potential choking or blockage hazards if ingested, tinsel and ornament hangers obviously pose a particularly dangerous problem as those can tear stomach lining or become entangled in the intestines. Finally, those beautiful strands of lights can become an electrocution hazard if pets are not supervised – many animals have an affinity for chewing on plastic.
From trees to plants, Christmas time turns many homes into virtual greenhouses and, while aesthetically pleasing to the human eye, many of the season’s most beautiful flora pose hidden dangers to pets. Christmas cacti, holly and mistletoe berries, and the traditional Christmas favorite, the poinsettia, all have one thing in common when it comes to posing a danger to your pets – they are all poisonous if ingested. Keep these pretty temptations out of pet’s reach just to be safe.
Our pets become such a part of our family that we try to include them in everything, but we sometimes forget that what is good for us is not always good for our four-legged counterparts. Chocolate is a prime example as, while enjoyed by most people, it can be life-threatening to dogs. Chocolate contains theobromine, a stimulant that affects the nervous system. People can effectively metabolize theobromine, but dogs cannot and it can quickly build up in their systems to the point of toxicity.
Like chocolate, bones of all types should be off limits to dogs, but poultry bones are especially dangerous given their frailness and tendency to splinter, so keep that turkey safely out of reach and dispose of the carcass out of Rex’s reach. Ham, grapes, and onions, while not necessarily deadly, are also examples of holiday foods that are not particularly good for dogs and can cause stomach upset and diarrhea. To guard against your pet being intentionally or mistakenly fed any potentially dangerous foods, keep them out of the kitchen and dining rooms, advise guests (especially children) that the pets are not allowed human food, and keep a tight fitting lid on kitchen garbage cans.
In addition to all the indoor dangers, the winter wonderland outside of your home can also pose outdoor threats to your pets. Antifreeze spills and leaks are potentially lethal as the sweet taste of the fluid attracts animals, but even small amounts of antifreeze can do quick and deadly work on both dogs and cats. Another potentially dangerous outdoor winter threat to your pets is road salt. Pets that spend time outdoors during the winter can come into contact with road salt, commonly used to melt ice on roads. Often pets will lick their feet and ingest the magnesium chloride in the salt which can, at the most minor levels, cause vomiting and diarrhea. The best way to prevent your pets from ingesting road salt is not to walk them on roads or sidewalks that may have been salted and to rinse their paw pads and feet thoroughly when they come inside.
Finally, large numbers of people milling in close quarters can be stressful even for human hosts during the holidays, but it can be especially nerve-racking to animals who are not use to strangers invading their space. If you have a particularly nervous pet or one that is especially wary of strangers, it might be in everyone’s best interest to put the pets outdoors or in another room while the house is at its fullest. While banishing Fido or Tiger to the basement might seem like excluding them from the festivities, you may actually be sparing their nerves. Even if your pet is one of the more social types, putting them in a safe area away from all the action might still be a good idea since its hard to supervise pets and entertain guests at the same time. After all, it only takes the door being left open a moment too long for a pet to disappear in the chaos and Christmas is no time to be heartbroken.
The Christmas holidays are meant to be enjoyed and, with a little forethought and planning, even the four-legged members of your family can have a safe and happy holiday.