Animal Writes
19 December 2001 Issue
Holiday Safety Tips

By [email protected]

Follow these holiday tips to help your companion animal enjoy the holidays without illness:

1. Secure garbage in bins with dog-proof lids or behind locked doors. Dogs may chew up holiday throwaways such as meat scraps, bones, paper, foil or plastic flavored with food, and even gift wrapping and ribbon, which can absorb food flavors. Ingesting these items can result in vomiting, diarrhea or intestinal perforation or obstruction. Meat-soaked strings from rump roasts are also enticing. Ingestion can cause a surgical emergency called a "linear string foreign body" in the intestines. Rich, fatty foods, like gravy or grease, can cause problems ranging from stomach upsets to pancreatitis, which is an inflammation of the pancreas resulting in pain, vomiting, and dehydration. Animals with this serious condition often require hospitalization for treatment.

2. Chocolate, coffee, and tea all contain dangerous components called xanthines, which cause nervous system or urinary system damage and heart muscle stimulation. Chocolate, with theobromine, is especially a problem because pets love its flavor. Problems from ingestion range from diarrhea to seizures and death. Unsweetened baking chocolate and dark chocolate are the worst culprits, but all chocolate, fudge and other candy should be placed out of your companion animal's reach.

3. Keep alcohol away from your companion animals. Alcohol even in small amounts can be toxic. An ounce of 20- to-40- proof alcohol can put your dog in a coma.

4. Keep all poinsettias, holly and mistletoe out of reach of your pets. Eating the leaves and berries of mistletoe could cause a drop in blood pressure. Hibiscus causes diarrhea. Ivy can cause diarrhea, convulsions, and in some cases even death when eaten in large quantities. Holly, poinsettias and other poisonous plants are best kept away from inquisitive companion animals.

5. When decorating for the holidays place lights and ornaments in safe places. Avoid glass ornaments, and be aware that your companion animal may eat tinsel or other decorations. Consider a smaller living or cut tree that can be positioned on a tabletop, making it harder for your dog to reach decorations. Secure larger trees to a wall to prevent tipping, and use a screen around the base to block access to electrical cords and gifts. Tinsel and gift-wrap may look like fun toys but they can cause choking, upset stomach or even more serious problems.

6. Do not use edible decorations. Decorating trees with food is asking for problems. Candy canes and gingerbread people can be enticing to your pet. A diabetic dog can have some problems with regulating it's disease if she is stealing candy canes off of the tree. Popcorn, raisin, or cranberry garlands are beautiful, but can cause an obstruction when eaten, requiring surgery.

7. Anticipate guests arriving at your home and confine your dog to prevent him from escaping out an open door and running away.

8. Reduce your dog's stress around this busy time by maintaining your dog's feeding and exercise schedule. Set aside a special place where your dog can get away from the excitement and have a quiet time.

9. Food is the NO. 1 holiday hazard for dogs. So, be sure you do NOT feed chicken or turkey bones. They splinter easily and can cause choking. Ask guests not to give your dog treats from the dinner table.

10. Put away children's toys after they open them. Small toys and rubber balls are common causes of choking and intestinal blockage in dogs.

11. Do not leave paper, ribbons and yarn out after you've wrapped presents. A bored or curious pet may choke on them.

12. Display candles on high shelves, and use fireplace screens to avoid singed whiskers and painful burns.

13. Tuck or tape cords out of reach. Bored dogs and teething pups often get electrocuted when they chew them.

14. Christmas Trees. Pine needles can get lodged in an animal's esophagus, making it painfully prickly for your pet to swallow. Even drinking the water from the Christmas tree base is enough to cause diarrhea, mouth sores, vomiting and loss of appetite. Cover your tree stand tightly with skirting and distract your companion animal from tree temptations with holiday toys and treats.

15. Read labels on products such as tree water preservatives and artificial snow, and buy only non-toxic products.

16. Animals, especially very young and older animals, can suffer stress, frostbite and hypothermia when their body temperature drops just a few degrees below normal. The tips of the ears, feet and tail are common areas to be affected. Watch for the formation of ice balls between your companion animal's toes and regularly trim the long hair between the footpads to avoid frostbitten feet. If you suspect frostbite, do not rub the area but simply apply warm moist packs and contact your veterinarian.

17. Be aware that if you wrap a food product for a gift and put it under your tree that your dog can very easily get to the item, unwrap it and eat it.

18. Perfumes and after-shaves contain ethanol (alcohol) and perfume also contains essential oils which can be very toxic to animals.

19. Batteries for toys or other gifts can be toxic and cause intestinal obstruction. Keep in a safe place until they are ready to be inserted in the gift.

20. Cleaning products such as disinfectants get a lot of use during the holidays as we spiff up our homes for visitors. Remember, many of these products can be toxic.

21. If traveling with your companion animal, be sure all vaccinations are current and carry your rabies certificate with you (this is the law in many states).

22. New companion animals are not the best holiday gifts. Don't consider giving an animal as a gift unless you are sure the person wants one. It may be better to give a gift certificate so the person can choose his or her own companion animal after the holidays. Similarly, if thinking about getting a new companion animal for yourself, remember they need routine and a time to bond with you. With its noise, commotion and special hazards, the holiday season is anything but routine.

Think about getting your new companion animal after the holidays.

Why not make the holidays more enjoyable for homeless animals? Contact your local animal shelter to see if you can donate food, kitty litter, toys or time.

23. When choosing a holiday gift for your special friend, be sure it's safe - no small pieces that could come off and be swallowed. Choose healthy holiday treats for your companion animal and give them in moderation.

24. Keep items such as tablecloths, table runners, etc. from hanging too low to the ground, and tempting happy dogs running by to grab an end and pull!

25. Potpourri contains oils that can be toxic to animals if eaten. We may not think of eating it, but some curious animals may.

26. Adhesives and glues can be toxic and are often attractive to animals, especially cats.

Remember the best present you can give your companion animals this holiday season is good health and some extra loving attention.

Go on to Report Cruel Nativity Scenes
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