You’ve heard of the dirty dozen in terms of pesticide laden produce, but what about the furry dozen—the 12 most dangerous holiday pet hazards? The holidays are a time, especially these days, to reconnect with your friends and family, but all the merry making isn’t necessarily a boon for your pets. Cat’s curious nature and dog’s curious nose cause both animals to get into holiday decorations, food and drinks that could end up with a pricey visit to the emergency room.
It’s well worth it to err on the side of caution: Take some extra pet-proofing measures to keep your pets safe and comfy. Follow these 12 practical tips for a festive, pet-copacetic holiday season.
Holiday Safety Tips for Pets
1. Reinforce rules
Don’t wait till the holidays to get a dog game plan going regarding rules, boundaries, and limitations. Carly Shivers, lead trainer of High Drive Dog Company, says if you’ve waited to the holidays to create better boundaries you’ve waited far too long. All those aromatic holiday food, sweets and candies lying about the house, not to mention the excitement of guests, and presents, mean there are many temptations for your dog. It’s up to you to remind him or her that the rules, boundaries, and limitations are the same. Use the holiday as a chance to reinforce good behavior instead of letting bad behavior creep in.
2. Guests without grief
It would behoove you to tire your dog out before a party or an extended indoor gathering. Take him on a long walk to let him get his ya-yas out. Otherwise, all the hubbub will just amp your dog up and make him very excitable. A mellow dog is a better option when it comes to multiple visitors. As for cats, they tend to need their own space. Consider restricting your cat to a relatively quiet room with access to hiding places until the guests are gone. Be sure to put their food, water and litter box in the room too.
3. Decorate with decorum
Curious pets are often attracted to ornaments hanging from the Christmas tree. Hang your treasured ornaments high up on the Christmas tree so they are out of the reach of curious furry friends. Wooden, metal, resin-cast or other durable ornaments are a better choice for the lower branches. Or avoid placing any ornaments on the lower branches of the Christmas tree. Keep your Christmas tree secure by using a stable stand. Evergreen needles, if ingested, can get stuck in your pet’s intestines and require surgery to remove. And make sure dogs and cats do not drink any Christmas tree water if you have a live tree, which can cause stomach upset in canines and felines.
And a final word to the wise: Cats love the feel of chewing tinsel and ribbons. If ingested, these decorative items can wrap around the base of a feline’s tongue and become caught in their intestines, causing an intestinal blockage that could lead to an emergency surgery. If your pet is likely to eat ribbons, ornaments or tinsel, try to avoid decorating your home with these items.
4. Make a plant plan
According to Medvet, holiday plants are a great way to brighten up a home, but many are toxic to pets. Even non-toxic plants can still cause severe gastrointestinal upset if ingested in large quantity. Holiday plants that can be harmful to pets include:
As for poinsettias, widely thought to be toxic to dogs and cats, ingestion may cause irritation to the mouth and stomach and result in vomiting, but they are generally considered low in toxicity.
5. Forget about anti-freeze and ice melt
Anti-freeze and rock salt are some of the cold weather chemicals that cause problems for pets. Be especially careful of using anti-freeze with the chemical ethylene glycol, which can be deadly to animals. For cats and dogs one or two licks of antifreeze is all it takes for a lethal dose, with cats four times as sensitive to the poison as dogs. Rock salt can also cause a chain reaction of dangers. If a pet walks on it, it can irritate paw pads, causing pets to lick or swallow the rock salt, which can result in agitation and vomiting. Look for ice melts with a propylene glycol base that is a relatively pet-safe way to melt ice.
6. Exercise caution regarding the cold
Many dog breeds are not built to handle cold weather. Stock up on stylish dog sweaters, coats and vests for the especially brisk days. You can buy doggie boots and paw waxes that protect from the cold and aid your dog’s grip on slippery surfaces like ice or snow.
7. Be cord conscious
If your pet chews on electrical cords it can result in serious injuries, such as electrical shock and oral burns. If chewing electrical cords is your pet’s thing, take precautions to limit their exposure to holiday lights. For example, make use of electrical cord covers and cord organizers to ensure electrical cords are less accessible and out of sight.
8. Rein in the raw dough
Raw dough is surprisingly compelling to pets, especially if it contains salt. But bakers beware: Ingested yeast dough can rise inside a pet’s digestive tract, blocking or rupturing internal organs and potentially causing seizures and respiratory failure.
9. Batten down the batteries
Keep small toys and loose batteries off the floor, away from the mouth of a pet. If a dog chews on a hard plastic toy, they risk breaking their teeth. Batteries, board game pieces and other small household items can contain zinc, which can cause pancreatitis and renal damage if ingested by a pet. Monitor a child’s playtime and pick up all toys after they’ve been played with. Also beware of batteries that many toys, cameras, watches, remote controls, and even greeting cards contain.
10. Axe the alcohol
Alcohol can be poisonous to pets. In some cases, it can lead to a coma or death. Even seemingly harmless amounts can be fatal. As little as one ounce of alcohol can kill a small cat or dog. Remember that alcohol can be found in many baked goods too, such as fruit cake, so keep these out of reach of your furry friends.
11. Don’t sweat the sweaters
Although a dog sweater is useful for outdoors, for inside use, pet costumes should allow pets to move freely, breathe easily and bark or meow. There should be no dangling parts for pets to tear off and swallow. If your pet doesn’t enjoy dressing up, it’s best to let them be themselves over the holidays.
12. Prevent purse creep
By nature, dogs are treat-motivated, curious creatures, nosing around in shopping bags and purses within reach to see what goodies lurk inside. Be sure to keep purses and bags off of the ground and out of reach of pets to minimize the ingestion risk of anything that may be toxic to them, including medications and candy or gum that contains chocolate or xylitol.
As a final bonus tip, figure out fire safety
Always be cautious near a fire with an animal that is wearing clothing. A stray piece of fabric can quickly cause the entire outfit to light on fire. A screen is a good way to keep a “done-up” pup safe. Also, never leave an animal alone in a room with a lit candle—especially cats, who are drawn to the warmth of a candle or fireplace. However, some cats (especially kittens) may get too close to stay safe. Your cat may singe her whiskers or burn her paws if she explores too closely. Or your cat can knock over a candle and cause a fire.