How to Avoid Holiday Threats to Your Pet

As it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas and potentially other holiday celebrations in your home, there are some important things to keep in mind to keep your pets safe throughout the season.

Many of the items that signal holiday cheer to you also pose a threat to your dog, cat, or other animals. Fear not, you don’t have to become a Grinch to keep Fluffy safe! Read on for easy tips to help keep your pets healthy this holiday season.

Christmas tree. “If you have pets, it’s important to anchor your Christmas tree,” said Dean Daubert, Chief Operations Officer at Anderson Humane. Many cats are tempted to climb the colorful foliage that’s suddenly appeared in your home, posing danger if the tree falls. Larger dogs can also knock over trees, and nearly all pets get tempted to play with ornaments, which can break and cause problems if ingested. Tinsel can be especially dangerous if eaten, and strings of Christmas light can shock if the cords are gnawed.

The gifts under the tree can also prove problematic for your pet. Many will tear into wrapping paper and gift bags, possibly eating paper, ribbons, bows, or small gift items in the process. Wrapped food gifts will prove especially enticing. Consider keeping those away from your four-legged family members.

If you have a live tree, Dean points out that the water that keeps the tree fresh is a breeding ground for bacteria. If your pets drink that water, they can get upset stomachs or worse. One of the best ways to avoid threats from a Christmas tree is to block the tree from your pets, perhaps by keeping it in an off-limits room.

Other foliage. While seasonal plants and wreaths can add beauty to your home, they can also be bad news for your pets. “Poinsettias are poisonous and can be deadly for both pets and kids,” Dean said. “Holly and mistletoe have even higher toxicity levels.” Christmas cactus can cause stomach distress, as can oils from live fir trees.

Artificial plants can be just as festive, or ask your florist for pet-safe foliage to decorate your home. As always, if you suspect your pet has eaten something dangerous, immediately call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435.

Cooking/baking. If you’re getting ready for the office cookie exchange, make sure you keep an eye on your hot oven. Same with all the holiday yumminess cooking on your stove top. Taller dogs can prop up and spill pots of hot food on themselves, as can curious cats on your counters. While it’s good to keep an eye on these things whenever you’re cooking, there can be extra distractions at the holidays.

For the same reason, keep an eye on unattended plates of food at holiday gatherings. It only takes seconds for Spot to snatch something he shouldn’t eat – like chocolate, anything sweetened with xylitol, or alcohol. Not sure what’s safe for your pets to ingest? Check out the ASPCA’s list of people foods to avoid feeding your pets.

Gatherings. “Keep an eye on entrances when hosting a party or other gathering,” Dean said. It’s easy for a pet to sneak out in the bustle of greetings, shedding coats, and unloading holiday goodies. This can prove especially dangerous if the weather is exceedingly cold, windy, or icy.

If your pet is nervous around guests, Dean suggests giving your visitors treats to give to your pets when they first meet. Pets who aren’t used to being around children might need a little coaching and extra watchfulness when the kiddos arrive.

“Most of all, it can be stressful when there’s lots of people over for the holidays, so make sure your pet has a place to retreat to – a separate room or the safety of their crate,” Dean said. A little quiet time can do a world of good for all of us this time of year!

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