Holidays are exciting times for people, but can be a dangerous and stressful time for the animals that share our lives. Decorations and foods, plants and wrappings can pose all sorts of dangers to cats, dogs and other pets.
Pet-proof Your Decor
Dr. Alice Crook, coordinator of the Sir James Dunn Animal Welfare Centre at Atlantic Veterinary College in Charlottetown, PEI, warns pet owners to be careful with holiday decorations, especially around young dogs that will chew almost anything. “Tinsel and small ornaments may cause choking or severe intestinal problems,” she says. “Animals may be electrocuted if they chew on lighting or extension cords.” Use only unbreakable ornaments, fastened with string rather than hooks, within a pet’s reach, and use decorations such as ribbon and bows in lieu of tinsel and icicles.
Cats have been known to climb Christmas trees, and dogs at play could upset your tree. To prevent such disasters, use a wide flat base for a tree stand, and use fishing line to secure the tree to the wall or ceiling.
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Feed What They Need
Changes in a pet’s regular diet can cause vomiting and diarrhea, so don’t give your pets Christmas dinner leftovers, or share alcoholic drinks with them. Chocolate is especially toxic to dogs, who have been known to tear into wrapped boxes, eat the contents and become ill.
Yuletide plants including mistletoe, holly, Jerusalem cherry and poinsettia can also be poisonous so keep these out of reach of curious paws and noses.
Reduce Animal Anxiety
Just as holiday preparations can stress us, changes and strangers in their world can upset our pets. Animals of any age can suffer from anxiety, which may manifest itself in accidents by litterbox- housetrained pets. To help prevent this regression, Dr. Crook recommends that pet owners try to maintain regular routines wherever possible, and create a safe haven where pets can retreat from the activity of parties and strangers in the home.
Pets Don’t Make Good Presents
Don’t give a pet as a Christmas gift. “There is usually too much excitement and activity for the new pet to receive the attention she needs,” Dr. Crook says. There may also be practical considerations. Is a pet suitable to the household? Can the potential owner afford an animal and expenses for its upkeep?
Instead of a live animal, give the recipient a book about pet care or about dog or cat breeds, along with a gift certificate entitling the bearer to a pet, perhaps from the humane society. Then the recipient will be involved in evaluating the responsibilities of choosing a new pet, setting the scene for a long and happy relationship together.