Christmas and the holidays are a festive time for people and pets alike, but the holidays hold certain dangers for pets as well.

Most Christmas safety tips for pets surround the Christmas tree, which is probably the biggest temptation for animals.

Pet and the Christmas tree

  • Fallen Christmas tree needles are very sharp and can easily get stuck in your pet’s paws or throat. Sweep tree needles up regularly or fence off your Christmas tree to separate your pet and tree.
  • Do not hang your chocolates from your Christmas tree: they are highly toxic and your pet will be tempted if he can see and smell them.
  • Cover up electric cords and flashing tree lights so your pet can’t chew them and electrocute himself.
  • Try using fairy lights that don’t flash as some pets when up close can get very scared by these.
  • Christmas tree decorations can cause a nasty accident or be fatal to your pet. Cats, and young pets especially, will show a great interest in decorations hanging from your tree. Try to use unbreakable decorations and nothing too small. Avoid tinsel or ribbons as these are dangerous to the gastrointestinal tract if your pet swallows them.
  • Make sure your tree is well anchored so your pet can’t pull it over.

Food to avoid giving your pet at Christmas:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Chocolate (highly toxic to pets)
  • Coffee
  • Mouldy or spoiled foods
  • Salt
  • Chicken or Turkey bones (they can splinter)

Avoid giving your pet any of your leftovers as this can cause diarrhoea. Also keep your pet away from cooked bones: they can splinter or get lodged in your pet’s throat or can cause serious damage by puncturing the intestinal tract.

Toxic plants, beware

Many festive plants are toxic in varying degrees to animals. Some can even be fatal. If you have animal companions, it’s best not to have poisonous plants in your home or to keep them out of harm’s way. Dangerous plants associated with Christmas include: mistletoe, ivy, holly, Christmas cactus, Christmas rose, star of Bethlehem, lily, yew, Jerusalem cherry, jequirity bean, poinsettia and hibiscus.

Harmful foods

Bones, particularly turkey and chicken bones which are brittle, should be avoided as they can splinter and lodge in an animal’s throat or intestines. Onions can be lethal causing a condition known as Heinz body hemolytic anemia in both feline and canines. Garlic should also be avoided.

No matter how cute it may look to get Fido slurping up a bon-bon, candies can make animals sick and the wrappers can be stuck in their intestines. Even though some pets love the taste, chocolate is an absolute no-no. It can be fatal along with grapes, raisins and Macadamia nuts.

Coffee and alcohol should never be given to any animal under any circumstance. Put those cigarettes out of reach as well since nicotine is a stimulant that increases the heart rate to dangerous levels.

Fireworks Safety

As many pet owners know, fireworks and thunder storms can cause a great deal of stress for some animals. Commonly seen signs include:

  • Shaking, trembling
  • Excessive drooling
  • Barking, howling
  • Trying to hide or get into / out of the house, fence, or other enclosure
  • Refusing to eat food
  • Some animals may loose bladder or bowel control or experience temporary diarrhea from prolonged stress

Practice Safety

  • Keep pets indoors. It is advisable to close the curtains and turn on the TV or radio to provide some distraction. Many times pets will seek out a small den-like place (such as a crate), if they are fearful or stressed. If you do not already have a crate, bed or similar place that your pet can call his “own”, it is recommended to create that safe place and familiarize your pet with it as a means of reducing stress during fireworks and thunderstorms.
  • Use a leash or carrier. If you must be outside with your pet, keep the pet on a leash or in carrier at all times.
  • Practice fire safety. Keep pet away from matches, open fires, and fireworks – especially ones that are lighted on the ground. Pets may try to sniff (or eat) fireworks, and pet hair can easily catch fire if too close to the fireworks.
  • Take pet for a walk first. If possible, make sure that you pet has time to “use the restroom” before the fireworks start. Some pets are too frightened to void once the fireworks begin, and this may lead to an “accident” later on.
  • Make sure pet ID is current. Make sure that your pet has proper identification tags, with current information, in case s/he gets away. This will help the local authorities (who are quite busy this time of year handling frightened runaways).

Sources: Vetmedicine, Very Important Pets

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