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12 Christmas Pet Safety Tips to Ensure Pet Safety and a Safe Holiday

Avoid Prickly Christmas Trees: When choosing a tree, consider one with pet-friendlier pliable needles – such as a Douglas fir or white pine. They won’t stick in your pet’s paws. (They’re also easier to vacuum).

Good Housekeeping: Some pets, especially puppies and kittens, like to munch on errant Christmas tree needles. They can choke on these, or they can cause a serious upset tummy or even an obstruction requiring surgery. Fir, spruce, and pine trees make excellent Christmas trees, but their oils can irritate a pet’s mouth, leading to excessive drooling or vomiting. Birds can perch on plastic trees, but they shouldn’t be allowed to munch on those plastic needles.

Cats Will Be Cats: From your cat’s perspective, Christmas trees may the best gift ever. Except for elderly or obese cats, daring your kitty not to scamper up the tree is not a realistic expectation. Don’t risk hanging antique family heirloom ornaments or glass ornaments on the tree. Display these somewhere else. A small latticework fence around the base of the tree will deter most cats from climbing.

Ban Tinsel and Ribbon: Cats and many dogs are enticed by tinsel, it’s shiny and gently waves back and forth. Cats can knock down an entire tree as they pull on tinsel or ornaments hanging from branches. Secure the tree. Swallowed tinsel can be life threatening. The best answer, avoid tinsel.

No Sugar Plums In the Water: Homemade family recipes or those suggested on the internet include a list of bizarre products to add to the water at the base of the tree to presumably lengthen Christmas tree life, and they include chicken soup, Vitamin C, dog urine (yuck!), bleach or even birth control pills. Aside from potentially making that water your tree sits in dangerous for pets to drink, experts suggest these homemade concoctions do nothing to add life to a tree. Some suggest over-the-counter products do work to prolong tree life but certainly not advised for pets to drink. A tree-stand skirt prevents your pet from drinking this water.

Beware Where You Kiss: Kissing under the mistletoe is quite romantic but be sure that fresh mistletoe is out of your pet’s reach, it’s toxic. Poinsettia plants aren’t the life-threatening hazard some in the media have propagated, still it’s hardly a healthy choice for pets and should be kept away.

Candles Burn Bright: Curiosity can kill a cat or a puppy. If a candle is knocked over, a house fire can start. A pet can get singed brushing against a candle. Scented candles can be life-threatening to pet birds due their sensitive respiratory systems. The best candles are the kind you plug in.

Stress Is Contagious:  Holiday time is frenetic. You’re behind in your holiday shopping; you’re worried in general because we are all worried in general, especially these days. Totally stressed out, there’s no time – not even for your best friend with four legs or feathers. As a result, the pet picks up on our anxiety. Try to play once daily, even if for a short time, with your “fur babies,” it’s a stress buster for them and for you too.  Additionally, products that can help keep our pets calm are a great idea during this wonderful (yet stressful) time of year.

Meet The Relatives: Some pets are social butterflies, others not so much. True enough, we may see far fewer relatives this year, but still strangers can be concerning for some pets. Some adopted during the pandemic may have never experienced the holiday happenings. Instead of admonishing the continuously barking dog or allowing Aunt Sophie to chase the terrified cat, relocate frightened pets to an escape room. Consider distraction with food puzzles (if there’s more than one pet and they are food aggressive, this isn’t a good idea) or toys. Pump up some calming background music too.

Holiday Treats To Die For: Be sure to keep Aunt Ethel’s sugar free chocolate brownies out of reach. Chocolate can be dangerous, and while sugar-free may be best for Santa, an artificial sweetener called Xylitol can be deadly to dogs.  If you’re serving margaritas and guacamole, it’s a fun party. However, that avocado (to make the guac) can make pet birds very ill.

Deck The Halls: Being merely human, we may all suffer from the ‘grandma syndrome,’ expressing love by feeding pets treats, sometimes treats they shouldn’t have. A problem arises when you overdo it. A 150 lb. person scarfing down five slices of turkey may be pushing the limits of being over-satiated. While a German Shepherd Dog might be able to eat that much without stomach upset, a diminutive Yorkshire Terrier or a cat might pay a price. For those little guys, a few slices is like a human adult eating half a turkey or ham. Most important, eating any fat or skin can lead to a dangerous and painful inflammation of the pancreas called pancreatitis, which can lead to a trip to the ER for our pet. Swallowing bones may also be life threatening, causing an obstruction requiring emergency surgery. Don’t trust that just because the pet has never before swiped food from the countertops or the trash that temptation won’t overcome training.  And anytime there’s a change in diet (especially from special holiday treats) stomach upset can be a problem.  Consider a supplement that can help calm the digestive tract.

A Family Affair:  As the family gathers to open presents, include all family members, even for those with fur, feathers or scales. Often, pets will easily sniff out which gifts are for them.

Happy Holidays!

Steve Dale

Steve Dale, certified animal behavior consultant (CABC), has reached more pet owners over the past few decades than any other pet journalist in America.

He is the host of two nationally syndicated radio shows, Steve Dale’s Pet World and The Pet Minute (together heard on more than 100 radio stations, syndicated Black Dog Radio Productions, since 2005). He’s also a special contributor at WGN Radio, Chicago, and program host of Steve Dale’s Pet World (since 1997), and host of Steve Dale’s Other World (2020). He formerly hosted the nationally broadcast Animal Planet Radio.

He’s currently a writer and contributing editor for CATster, columnist for DVM 360 where he also serves as a member of the Editorial Advisory Board. He’s also a columnist for the Journal of National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America and contributing editor American Association Pet Parents (myaapp.org). Steve is Chief Correspondent at Fear Free Happy Homes.

To read more about Steve, visit his website at https://stevedalepetworld.com/about-steve/

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