Ah, the holiday season! Tons of festivities, presents, joy all around, then your pet eats something. Suddenly your festive season turns into a nightmare. You’re worried about their wellbeing and just straight up not having a good time. Luckily there’s a way to avoid all of this. It’s called prevention! Yes, we are here to help you avoid that nightmare with a plethora of pet safety tips to keep your furry family members secure during the holiday season.
When Prevention is Better Than Cure
The best way to cure your pet of the dangers associated with the holidays is to prevent it. Pet safety tips will keep everyone happy but, more importantly, everyone out of harm’s way. Not to mention how expensive and stressful the holidays can be. You do not want to add another stress or expense to it. Below we have compiled a list of top hazards during the holiday season and ways to prevent them from happening.
Top Pet Safety Tips for the Holiday Period
Avoid Dangerous Plants
Poinsettias. You know, the red flowery plant that’s associated with winter wonderlands and Christmastime. Just like the name suggests, it’s poisonous. It should be kept away from horses, cats, and dogs. Luckily they get a bad rep and aren’t as dangerous as some of the other things on this list.
Nevertheless, their sap contains chemicals that, when ingested, can cause drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea. It can also cause skin and eye irritation. The results are low on the toxicity meter and rarely need medical intervention. However, you know your pet best, and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Keep them out of reach of Dangerous Goodies
What better way to spread cheer than food? It’s also an excellent way to get your pet into some serious trouble. Let’s talk about chocolate. Just about everyone knows that chocolate is not suitable for dogs or cats.
However, it is perfect for dessert for their owners. The toxic substance theobromine affects the nervous system, the cardiovascular system, and respiratory system. Think of it like caffeine on overdrive for your pets. We can handle our caffeine better than our four-legged counterparts.
In mild cases, your pets will have vomiting, diarrhea, drooling, restlessness, polyuria (excessive urination), polydipsia (excessive drinking), tachycardia (increased heart rate). In severe cases, where a lot of chocolate is ingested, we can see heart failure, muscle tremors, and/or seizures. Remember, the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is.
So how can we still indulge but keep our pets from doing the same thing? Keep it high where they cannot get to it. Eat it when they are not around and at risk of grabbing it from you. Do not let small children feed it to them. Try keeping your pets in a designated area away from harmful substances.
Don’t Let Your Pets Party
It’s customary to bring a bottle of liquor to a friend’s house for a holiday party. Of course, our pets can not partake in that type of partying. Alcohol is never safe for them. Not to mention, there are liquors with chocolate in them. That’s a double whammy!
Alcohol contains ethanol and hops (in beer) that, in even small doses, can cause disorientation, tremors, lethargy, loss of consciousness, and paralysis. Also, in a year like 2020, a note about hand sanitizer. There is alcohol in this, and right now, it’s in about everyone’s purse. Keep your bags off the floor to keep a nosey nose out of it and into harm’s way.
Snow globes that break, ornaments made out of salt dough, tinsel on your tree. These are all top hazards during the holiday for your pets. Shiny, string-like objects are on your cat’s radar as soon as they come out of the box.
Unfortunately, your cat may ingest them, and thanks to the wonderful papillae (tiny keratin structures that aid in grooming) on their tongue, they will not be able to regurgitate them. This leaves them vulnerable to a linear foreign body (the foreign body that can actually cause a sawing motion through the intestines.) Without medical intervention, your cat may have some serious issues.
Snow globes are also usually made out of glass, leaving them extremely easy targets for a tail wag mess or paw push. Glass can get stuck in their paws, leaving them with lacerations. Now let’s talk about the contents inside the snow globe, ethylene glycol.
Ethylene glycol is a substance also found in antifreeze. It smells and tastes sweet but can lead to fatalities. So you love them? They’re pretty, we know, but keep them high enough from your pets to avoid them breaking.
Tinsel is a timeless Christmas tree decoration, but its shine attracts cats. Mischievous cats will play or even eat the tinsel, causing them to potentially get caught up and hurt in it or ingest it. The only safe way to use tinsel is to avoid it or to keep your tree indeed guarded against your pets.
Since we are on the subject of Christmas trees, those homemade salt dough ornaments can cause some severe electrolyte imbalances. Putting them on your tree where your pets may be able to knock them off (cough, I’m talking to your cats!) will lead to some dangerous consequences if ingested. You could skip putting them on or find another place for them to be displayed.
Move the Medicine
Headaches are a common theme this time of year: loud music, parties, less time to sleep, etc. – making medication a staple to some. Make sure to keep it out of reach of your pets and locked in a safe cabinet to avoid any accidental ingestion. Also, when you take it, make sure your pets are not nearby in case you drop it.
Use Pet Safe Salt
Using salt to melt the ice outside is necessary for avoiding injury. But switch to a pet-friendly brand. Not only can the salt get stuck in your dog/s (or cats if they go outside) paws and cause irritation, but if ingested, it can cause electrolyte imbalance. It will raise their sodium levels, which can cause tremors or seizures. Switch to a pet-safe salt brand to avoid both of these issues.
Don’t Leave Them Outside
It sounds like a no-brainer, right? Well, the holidays can overwhelm many pet owners making their pets more vulnerable to being left outside. Also, wintertime can bring on some freezing temperatures. If you are suffering from a giant list of to-dos for the holiday season, keep your door open for your pet to come in and out.
Set an alarm so your pet doesn’t stay outside longer than necessary, putting them at risk for frostbite or hypothermia. If you think your pet is suffering from hypothermia, contact your veterinarian immediately. Signs may include shivering, lethargy, pale gums, low heart rate, and collapse.
This one is particularly dangerous for birds. Birds are small and extremely sensitive to the fumes that are released with self-cleaning ovens. We know how nice it can be to have your oven clean itself after cooking your eight-course holiday meal. However, it is best to do this when you can move your bird (in its cage, of course) outside. While we are on the subject of cooking, avoid cooking with teflon and nonstick pans. These fumes can cause respiratory distress and fatal reactions.
Candles can bring the scent of just about anything into your home. Do you know what they also bring? Fire. A fire that can be knocked over by your cat and cause a chain reaction. They also can emit fumes that will hurt your bird, cat, or dog and cause allergic reactions. Make sure to use pet-friendly candles if you need to burn them. Also, keep them out of reach to avoid any fires from happening.
Getting a small exotic (or even a puppy) as a holiday gift can become an issue if not executed properly. Ensure you do your research on these pocket pets and keep them in the proper atmosphere needed for optimal health. Also, make sure the person on the receiving end does the same thing and has all the tools needed to keep their pet healthy.
We could go on and on about hazards for your pets during the holidays, but the holidays are supposed to be fun! We know they can be overwhelming and have lots of ways for your pets to get into trouble. Hopefully, this list can shed some light on ways to avoid troubles and keep your fur babies safe and sound.
Jaclyn is a Licensed Veterinary Technician (LVT) who has a bachelors degree in journalism. Combining her two interests of writing, and veterinary medicine is a true passion. Jaclyn has already created her own blog called The Four Legged Nurse (@thefourleggednurse) and looks forward to contributing to I Love Veterinary! Jaclyn is blessed with two children, a wonderful husband, and four devoted fur babies. In her free time she loves spending time with her family, reading, and riding horses.