Pet safety through the holidays

I originally wrote this post in October 2011:

The last three months of the year are usually great fun for humans with Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, as well as New Year’s Eve. Regardless which holidays you observe, be advised that each carries specific threats to your dog’s or cat’s safety.

Safety risks from food

We Americans consider food to be an integral part of celebrations. Each holiday has its own food traditions. While we treasure these things, some of the foods may represent a danger to our pets’ health.

These foods can make your pet very sick or even put his life at risk:

  • Chocolate
  • Onions and garlic
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Herbs and spices
  • Poultry bones
  • Alcohol
  • Raw bread dough (body heat can make the dough expand)
  • Anything with raw eggs
  • Anything with caffeine or the artificial sweetener, Xylitol

And beware the strings you use to truss the turkey or tie the roast. If your dog or cat ingests this tasty treat, it can cause tremendous damage to his digestive system and require surgery to save his life.

Keeping your pet away from these foods can be a challenge when it is so readily available and guests can inadvertently leave plates where our pets can get to them. To be safe, put your pets in another room where they can hang out comfortably while food is served. And ensure all candy bowls have lids and are placed out of the reach of your pets.

Pumpkin puree can be a good stomach upset treatment, but be sure it is pure pumpkin puree and not the pumpkin pie filling. The canned filling contains spices and herbs that can cause digestive tract upset. Discuss the use of pumpkin puree with your veterinarian before giving it to your dog.

The notion of dangerous plants during these holidays has been greatly exaggerated. Poinsettias are not life-threatening to dogs or cats. If your pet ingests a Poinsettia leaf, the worst he will likely experience is stomach upset. The same is true if your pet nibbles on pumpkins, corn, holly and mistletoe that you may decorate with. So don’t banish the seasonal accents from your home—just put them out of your pet’s reach.

Other safety hazards

Not all pets are as delighted to have people coming and going from their home as you are. Especially on a night like Halloween where visitors come in waves and they look SCARY! And New Year’s Eve noisemakers or fireworks can also present a danger. Those sounds can terrify your pet because they are sudden, unusual and loud. If your pet becomes frightened, he might bolt out the door and run off. Let him spend the evening in a safe, quiet room or at least behind a baby gate well away from the door, and consider leaving his leash on him for the duration. Also be sure all ID on your pet is up-to-date . . . just in case.

Decorations can also pose certain hazards to your pet’s health. Unsecured cords for holiday lights can be chewed on, posing the risk of cuts or burns and possibly electrocution. Pumpkins with candles should be placed where they cannot be knocked over by curiosity or play. Tinsel and other bright, shiny “toys” on Christmas trees can lead to cuts, digestive tract obstruction and surgery.

Bah Humbug!

These safety precautions are not meant to put a damper on your enjoyment of holiday traditions. Enjoy your food, decorating and entertaining traditions. And take just a few minutes for some safe guards so everyone in your home can have happy and healthy holidays.

Resources at your fingertips

Halloween Safety

Thanksgiving Safety

December Safety

Carol Peter is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and owner of Cold Nose Companions, LLC Dog Training. She offers group classes and private in-home training for people and their dogs throughout Geauga, Lake, eastern Cuyahoga, and western Ashtabula Counties. Carol focuses on resolving problem behaviors and teaching good household manners using positive reinforcement training and behavior modification methods. She can be reached at carol@coldnosecompanions.com.

©2011, Carol Peter, Cold Nose Companions, LLC

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