Dec 05 2012

Christmas Tips For You and Your Pet

We love sharing the holidays with friends and family… and that includes our pets. We want them to be part of the festivities and their presence makes special occasion more “special.”

To prevent the fun from turning into frenzy, here are a few pet tips to keep your dog or cat happy and healthy this holiday season.

Practice Christmas Tree Safety for Your Dog’s or Cat’s Health

The Christmas tree is the focal point of the holiday home. Unfortunately, cats and dogs focus on it, too. Cats love to play with dangling ornaments. Where else can they find so many cat toys in one place? Dogs look at the same ornaments and see a tree full of balls to fetch. And both cats and dogs love to nibble edible garland made of popcorn or cranberries.

Swallowing any of these objects may result in serious intestinal problems. Christmas ornaments can injure intestinal tracts or cause blockages that may require surgery. While eating popcorn or cranberries may simply cause a simple tummy upset, the string that binds them can cause a major intestinal problem called “intussusception’” in which the intestines accordion or gather up. This condition requires major abdominal surgery to repair. So, if you can’t monitor your pet around the tree, it’s best to keep the Christmas tree out of reach by placing a small tree on a table or utilizing pet gates.

We all love the smell of a live Christmas tree and we work hard to keep it alive, but pet owners should avoid using additives that are meant to extend the life of the tree. If pets drink this additive more stomach problems may be in store. With or without the additive, your live tree will eventually lose a few needles. Be sure to sweep up any fallen needles quickly since pets often act as a vacuum cleaner scarfing up anything that hits the floor…even pine needles.  These needles can, guess what???…upset the stomach or even accumulate to cause an intestinal blockage.

Secure the tree in place. One Christmas, our 10-pound cat toppled an 8-foot Christmas tree. After that fiasco, we used strong fishing line to tie the tree to the window molding. So far, our large Labrador hasn’t done as much damage as that little kitty, but his tail is definitely strong enough to fell a huge tree. So cat and dog owners need to “tie the tree” to avoid calamity.

Here’s one more Christmas tree tip: Keep electrical cords out of reach. Chewing on electrical cords can be “shocking” and even deadly. If not fatal, crunching on a cord can cause painful electrical burns in the mouth.

How to Handle Other Live Christmas Plants

Poinsettias are Christmas icons; however, these beautiful plants are toxic to pets and can cause drooling and vomiting. Christmas cactus can also irritate the mouth and cause gasto-intestinal upset. Even mistletoe is toxic and can cause respiratory distress and heart failure. So place Christmas plants out of reach and hang the mistletoe way up high.

Christmas Gift Safety for Dogs and Cats

Last year, our Labrador found his own wrapped Christmas gift among 50 others and chewed it open! Luckily we caught him in the act and intervened before he swallowed the paper and ribbon. I know Scout is a smart dog (he IS mine, right?) but he definitely did not read his name of the gift tag. He “smelled” his toy inside the package.

Not taking any chances this year, we keep the gifts out of Scout’s reach, especially the ones that contain food, candy, or pet toys. Pet owners must also keep the gift wrapping materials stored securely because some pets will eat the paper and ribbon even when it doesn’t surround edible goodies.

Christmas Goodies Aren’t Always Good for Pets

Even though it’s hard not to share your eggnog or Christmas candy with furry friends, we must resist the temptation. Furthermore, we must ask our generous guests not to share their indulgences with our pets.

Chocolate is a well known toxin for dogs and cats, but don’t forget that any table food can make them rue the holidays. Turkey, gravy, and other holiday foods may cause pancreatitis. And holiday alcoholic spirits can severely compromise pets, especially small dogs and cats. Swallowing bones may cause obstructions or intestinal injury. And raisins in Christmas cookies are toxic for our pets.

Does that mean that our pets can’t have holiday treats? Certainly not!  Just have some pet treats around that are safe to share. These treats will assuage your guilt and make your pet feel a part of the festivities. Keep a bowl of treats handy for guests that want to bestow a little holiday kindness on your pet.

Keep the Christmas Fires Safely Burning

Snuggling with your pet next to a big, roaring fire has a greeting card ring to it. But we need to monitor our pets around open flames. Getting too close can result in contact burns. Watch the small flames, too. Lit candles can cause house fires when curious kitties or wagging puppy tails topple them over. In general, watch any open flame very carefully when pets are in the house.

Happy Holidays with Happy Pets

Pet owners really do relish spending the holidays with their pets. In fact, almost 70% of us include our pets in the festivities. They aren’t simply observers, but actual participants in the memory making events of our lives. With a few precautions, we can make sure that all our holiday memories this year are good ones.

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