You can help keep pets safe during the holiday season by following the tips below. For other important, timely tips for cold weather protection, traveling with pets and safety issues, as well as behavior guidance, go to www.paw-rescue.org and click the Dog Tips link.
* Many holiday plants can lead to health problems in dogs and cats. Among the plants to keep out of reach are holly, mistletoe, poinsettias and lilies.
* Snow globes often contain antifreeze, which is poisonous to pets.
* Pine needles, when ingested, can puncture holes in a pet’s intestine. So keep pet areas clear of pine needles.
* The extra cords and plugs of holiday lights and other fixtures can look like chew toys to pets. Tape down or cover cords to help avoid shocks, burns or other serious injuries. Unplug lights when you are not home.
* Anchor Christmas trees to the ceiling with a string to keep it from falling on pets.
* Do not let pets drink the holiday tree water. Some may contain fertilizers, and stagnant tree water can harbor bacteria. Check labels for tree water preservatives and artificial snow, and buy only those that are nontoxic. Some folks use screens around trees to block access to electrical cords and gifts.
Very important: do not put aspirin in the water (some folks do this thinking it will keep the tree or plant more vigorous). If a pet ingests the aspirin-laced water, his health or even life can be at risk.
* Pets, particularly cats, can be tempted to eat tinsel, which can block the intestines. Hang tinsel high and securely to keep it out of reach of pets.
* Keep other ornaments out of reach of pets. Ingestion of any ornament, which might look like toys to pets, can result in life-threatening emergencies. Even ornaments made from dried food can lead to ailments. And remember, shards from broken glass ornaments can injure paws, mouths and other parts of the body.
* Put away toys after children open their gifts. Small plastic pieces and rubber balls are common causes of choking and intestinal blockage in dogs. Ingested plastic or cloth toys must often be removed surgically.
* Avoid toxic decorations. Bubbling lights contain fluid that can be inhaled or ingested, snow sprays and snow flock can cause reactions when inhaled, styrofoam poses a choking hazard, tinsel can cause choking and intestinal obstruction, and water in snow scenes may contain toxic organisms such as Salmonella.
* Keep candles on high shelves. Use fireplace screens to avoid burns.
* Hi-tech shooing: A timely product Im not sure Id recommend, but if you have any experience with it, let me know. The StayAway canister from Contech Electronics uses a motion-detection device to sense when a pet approaches some off-limits area (countertop, table-top, candles, fireplace mantel, holiday tree), then activates a burst of compressed air and a one-second warning screech.
Other low-tech methods: place sticky mats, crunchy aluminum foil or bubblewrap on or around the area … tie balloons around the area … put some pennies in empty plastic drink bottles and balance the bottles on the bottom branches of the holiday tree or plant so that theyll noisily tip over if a cat or other pet jumps at or on the tree.
* Holiday guests and other activity can be very stressful and even frightening to pets. It can also trigger illness and intestinal upset. Make sure pets have a safe place to retreat in your house. And make sure they are wearing current I.D. in case they escape out a door when guests come and go.
* Reduce stress by keeping feeding and exercise on a regular schedule.
* Always make time to care for your pets. Some folks get lax about walking their dogs, and a few resort to letting pets out on their own. This puts the animal in danger, while also leading to nuisance complaints and dog bite incidents. Remind pet owners not to take a holiday from responsibly caring for their pets.
* When pets are stressed by holiday activity or during travel, they may require more water. Dogs typically pant more when they feel stressed. Keep fresh water available for them to drink.
* Rescue Remedy, a Bach flower essence available in most health food stores, is a natural stress reliever that many folks keep on hand at home and in travel kits. It can often help both people and animals recover from injury, fright, illness, travel fatigue, chocolate ingestion and irritation. Put a few drops in the dog�s water bowl or portable water container. For stressed or injured animals, rub a drop on their ear or put a drop on the towel in their crate or carrier. Flower essences are free of harmful effects and can be used along with conventional medicines. Another safe, nontoxic Rescue Remedy-like product is Animal Emergency Trauma Solution, available from www.greenhopeessences.com, where you can also get Flee Free to combat fleas nontoxically. Other flower essence sources include anaflora.com and perelandra-ltd.com.
* Do not let guests feed your pets human food. There are many holiday foods, including fatty meats, gravies, poultry skin, bones, chocolate and alcohol, that can cause illnesses from vomiting and diarrhea to highly serious pancreatitis and other toxic reactions. In addition, candy wrappers, aluminum foil pieces and ribbons can choke pets.
* Keep pets away from gift packages as well as your gift wrapping area. Ingested string, plastic, cloth and even wrapping paper can lead to intestinal blockage and require surgical removal. And pets have been severely injured by scissors and other items left on floors and tables.
* Keep pets away from the garbage. Use pet-proof containers.
* If you suspect that your pet has eaten something toxic, call your veterinarian and/or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center’s 24-hour emergency hotline at 1-888-4-ANI-HELP.
* If your pet ingests glass, broken plastic, staples orother small, sharp objects, call your veterinarian.
In the meantime, you can give your dog supplemental fiber in the form of whole wheat or other high-fiber bread, canned pumpkin or Metamucil, any of which can help bulk up the stools the help the foreigh material pass through the dogs digestive system. Dosages depend on the size of the dog. For Metamusil, try a teaspoon for a small dog, a tablespoon for a big dog. For pumpkin, feed one-quarter to two-thirds of a cup. Some folks recommend feeding the dog cotton balls to help pass the foreign objects, but others in the veterinary field caution against this since cotton balls can compound the problem.
* By the way, now is a good time to double-check smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and other safety devices and replace batteries. Safety, of course, is the key reason — but here’s another good reason. When batteries run low, the devices often emit alert or alarm sounds at frequencies that can be painful and frightening to many pets. If you’re not home when the alert/alarm sounds, your animals will have to endure that sound until you return, which can be traumatic. So always keep fresh batteries in those devices.
Holiday Stress Reducers (including Greeting Guests, Stress-Busting Strategies, and Travel Stress Savers)
Helping Dogs Cope with Visitors to Your Home
Petsitters and Boarding Kennels
First Aid Kit and Guidance
Cotton Ball Remedy for Ingested Glass
Animal Hospital Locator
Partnership for Animal Welfare, Inc.
P.O. Box 1074, Greenbelt, MD 20768
Partnership for Animal Welfare
For more Tips and other pet care information, visit our website at: www.paw-rescue.org
Partnership for Animal Welfare, Inc., P.O. Box 1074, Greenbelt, MD 20768
Copyright Robin Tierney 2004. For educational use by nonprofit organizations only.