Monday, November 25, 2013

Keeping the Animals We Love Safe This Holiday Season

The winter months and holiday season have arrived! The holidays can provide wonderful opportunities to stay close to home and bask the companionship of our pets. But, as the holidays are also a time for eating, drinking, decorating, and being merry, they can also pose unforeseen health hazards that could be a concern for household animals. Before you deck your halls with boughs of holly, check out these helpful hints to keep your pets safe, happy and healthy this season.

This time of year, many people adorn their houses with holiday plants including Christmas trees, holly and mistletoe. While keeping a Christmas tree is a beautiful and time-honored tradition, be aware of the risks they can pose to your pets. If you put up a Christmas tree, make sure that it is well secured. If you have a cat who climbs or a large dog with a “happy tail,” anchor the top of the tree to the wall using a strong cord or rope. 

Ornaments, candy canes, light bulbs and tinsel can also be potentially dangerous to pets. Not only can ingested objects cause intestinal blockage and abrasions, but glass ornaments can shatter and cut soft paw pads. Be sure to hang fragile or edible ornaments safely out of a curious pet’s reach. If you have a ball-crazy dog, hang glass balls high on the tree, or take them off altogether. Cats are notorious for playing with and consuming tinsel and ribbon, which can bunch up in their intestines like an accordion. Worse yet, tinsel can slice an animal’s intestines, which requires surgery to correct. Dogs, cats, and bunnies have also been known to nibble on strings of lights or electrical cords, which can cause electrocution. 

Be careful not to let your pet drink the water from the Christmas tree stand, which may contain preservatives, or sugar or aspirin additives to keep the tree looking fresh. These can cause gastrointestinal upset in pets. Keep in mind that some dogs (especially males!), may be inclined to break the rules of housetraining on a freshly cut tree—why else would anyone bring a tree into the house?

Many pets will ignore the Christmas tree, but if yours do not, then be sure to make the tree off-limits when you’re not home to supervise. Put a small decorative fence around the tree, or keep the tree in a room with a door that can be closed to limit a pet’s access to the room.

Other decorative holiday plants may look intriguing to your pets, but they can be toxic.  Mistletoe has the potential to cause cardiovascular problems. Both poinsettias and holly, if ingested, can cause illness including vomiting and diarrhea. Again, the best cure is prevention: keep all dangerous plants out of your pets’ reach.

Burning candles should also be closely watched when pets are around. Do not leave burning candles on coffee tables and other surfaces that your dog, cat or rabbit may jump onto. With one exuberant tail wag or swat of a paw, the flames or hot wax could quickly cause disaster. Position candles securely and away from curious faces and feet.

While most pet owners know that chocolate contains theobromide, a chemical that is fatally poisonous to dogs, many other favorite holiday foods can also can give your four-legged family members a tummy ache. Uncooked yeast dough can rise in the stomach and cause severe pain. Pets who have eaten bread dough may experience abdominal pain, bloat, vomiting, disorientation and depression. Since the breakdown product of rising dough is alcohol, it can also cause alcohol poisoning.

What if you don’t have a pet…yet? Through the years, movies, television and media have depicted happy children waking up on Christmas morning to find an adorable puppy or cuddly kitten wearing bow beneath the tree. In reality, many pets are abandoned after the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Animal Friends does not recommend giving pets as gifts for the holidays. Remember that the first few weeks of life in a new household are a critical and sometimes scary time for your new pet. If your family’s holiday celebrations involve travel, houseguests or long hours away from home, the holiday season would be the wrong time to acclimate a new pet to your home routine. If your family is planning to adopt a pet, come to Animal Friends to purchase all the supplies you’ll need. Then after the holidays have wound to a close, your loved ones can return to carefully select the perfect pet for their lifestyle. This will provide the happy new pet owners time to invest in their new lifelong commitment.

We’ve all heard the old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!”  This is especially true when it comes to our pets. 

On behalf of all of us at Animal Friends, Happy Holidays to you and your pets!

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