Pets: Be sure to avoid these holiday pet hazards

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The holidays are a wonderful time to spend with your furry friends – but make sure to steer clear of these standards of the holidays that could harm their health
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By Kim Gilliam

The winter holidays are a time to enjoy seeing family and friends, but don’t get so wrapped up in the excitement of the season that you forget to keep your pets safe from the unique hazards this time of year presents. Here are the most common dangers you’ll want to be sure to avoid.

Chocolate

People love to gift chocolates over the holidays, but if your pets ingest enough of this they can receive an unhealthy dose of methylxanthines. Note that cats can be adversely affected by ingesting chocolate too; it’s just that most cats have little interest – more than 90 percent of chocolate toxicity calls to the Pet Poison Helpline are for dogs.

Guests

If your guests don’t have pets of their own, they may not know how best to keep them safe

There’s no rules, however, about dressing your pets up in cute costumes like this.

and may let them into parts of the house that are off-limits or even outside when you are not around. Let them know the ‘pet rules’ of the house. And while you may be a stickler about securing items that could be harmful to your pets, guests often leave suitcases open where pets can easily get into trouble, such as eating prescription medications or sugar-free gum. Please make sure your guests keep such items secure.

Tree Decor

You’ll want to skip the tinsel this year; it is thin and sharp and if ingested can easily wrap itself around intestines or ball up in the stomach. And glass ornaments can easily be knocked off the tree by a wagging tail and break, creating sharp fragments that can cut your pet’s paws, so place these on the higher branches. Make sure the electrical cords for your holiday lights are secured from curious puppies or kittens that like to chew.
And last but not least, do not allow pets to drink the Christmas-tree water – if you have added fertilizer, it can be toxic, and even stagnant water can be bad for them.

Holiday Plants

Plants such as mistletoe and holly can cause severe gastrointestinal disorders, breathing problems and even heart failure if swallowed. Poinsettias and Christmas cacti can lead to serious indigestion. It’s best to keep harmful plants out of reach.

Potpourri & Candles

Do you like to simmer potpourri on the stove or burn candles to fill your home with the scents of the season? Cats may be tempted to drink the potpourri liquid, which is poisonous to them, causing corrosive burns, difficulty breathing and excess liver enzymes.
And pets may burn themselves on unattended candles or cause a fire if they knock them over. Be sure to use appropriate candle holders, placed on a stable surface, and put the candle out if you leave the room.

By paying proper attention to these and other changes you make around the home this time of year, you and your pets can enjoy the season together without incident. Happy Holidays.

Kim Gilliam owns Alexandria’s Frolick Dogs, an indoor dog gym, with her husband, Kevin Gilliam.

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