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Holiday safety tips for pets

Original Publication Date: December 14, 2015
By C. Sue Furman, Ph.D.

Including furry four-legged friends in holiday festivities is automatic for those who consider pets family members. Keep them healthy and happy by maintaining their normal eating and exercise schedules. Be careful to safeguard them against potential dangers of common holiday decorations and treats.

A Christmas tree is the centerpiece of holiday decorations in many homes. Be sure to anchor it securely so it cannot tip or fall and injure your pet. A nosy dog can certainly topple a tree. A tree-climbing cat can take one down even faster. Broken ornaments can damage your pet's mouth and digestive tract. Shiny tinsel and gift wrapping ribbons pose another hazard to dogs and cats. Tabbies especially like to carry the stringy bits around and play with them. Playful nibbles lead to swallowing, which can cause an obstructed digestive tract and vomiting and potentially require surgery.

Trees have lights, and lights have wires that are real hazards to our furry friends. Pets of any age may see cords as tempting chew toys, but they are especially attractive to young cats and dogs. Gnawing on wires puts your pet at risk of severe burns or even electrocution. A barrier of aluminum foil, double sided tape or bubble wrap can be a deterrent, but using a commercial product designed to wrap cords is much better. Some wire wraps come infused with a bitter-tasting material to discourage a pet from munching.

Fragrant candles or simmering potpourri can fill your home with inviting aromas that add to the holiday spirit. Unfortunately, an inquisitive pet can suffer burns or cause a fire if left unattended around lit candles. A few licks of scented oils can cause chemical burns in the mouth, fever, difficulty breathing and tremors. Candles and potpourri should be kept well out of reach and never left unattended.

Holiday safety tips for pets Holiday safety tips for pets
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Watching glimmering sparkles float down in a snow globe can be mesmerizing. Recently, it has been found that imported snow globes contain antifreeze or ethylene glycol. A teaspoon of antifreeze from a broken snow globe can be fatal to a cat. Depending on its size, a dog can tolerate a tablespoon or two before becoming uncoordinated, excessively thirsty and lethargic. Symptoms may seem to lessen after a few hours, but internal damage leading to kidney failure continues. Immediate veterinary care and an antidote are vital.

Numerous other hazards, including toxic decorative plants like mistletoe, amaryllis, poinsettias and holly, should be kept out of reach. A caring pet parent must also warn guests not to leave cocktails, chocolate, nuts and other treats unattended.

Be aware of common holiday decorations that can tempt your furry family member. Choose from the vast array of holiday trimmings that are pet-safe. Pet-proof your home so you and your four-legged friend will have a relaxed and happy holiday.

Sue Furman, Ph.D, has published two books and a DVD on canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, acupressure, first aid and CPR. See her schedule and submit questions at