More Holiday Safety Tips

With all the holiday bustle, it's easy to forget a few things, so here's another list to help keep your pets safe.

The holiday season can be so busy and full of excitement and activity, that it's very easy to miss things that could be hazardous to our beloved pets. Here are some more safety tips and suggestion on helping to keep pets safe during this special time of year.

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. If necessary, put these on high shelves or places easily out of reach of your curious pets. It might be a good idea to put them in a closet or laundry room when you go to bed, to insure that your feline friend or curious canine doesn't go on a treasure hunt while you're asleep. If you just can't curb your furry companion's curiosity, beautiful artificial versions of these holiday favorites could be used instead.

Snow globes often used as a holiday decorations can contain antifreeze, which is poisonous to pets. Place these in areas where they will be safe from accidentally tipping or hitting a hard surface. Check them regularly for any leaks. Water in snow scenes may also contain toxic organisms such as Salmonella.

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.

Pine needles, when ingested, can puncture holes in a pet's intestine. So keep carpets and pet areas clear of pine needles. Make sure to keep your tree's water level up, so it will stay fresher longer and drop fewer dead needles. Try to vacuum up all lose pine needles whenever possible.

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. You can also anchor your tree next to a wall, using a solid piece of cord and an eye bolt, which can be removed when not needed.

Check labels for tree water preservatives and artificial snow, and buy only those that are labeled non-toxic. 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.

Gently remind guests not to feed your pets human food or sugary treats. 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.

Pets, particularly cats, can be tempted to eat tinsel or chew on garland, which can block the intestines. Hang tinsel high and garland securely to keep it out of reach of pets.

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Check your ornaments every year before you use them on your tree. Cracked and worn ornaments will be easier for a curious cat or excited dog to break if they get a hold of them, so discard these immediately. Keep 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.

Keep candles on high shelves. Use fireplace screens to avoid burns.

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. tags in case they escape out a door when guests come and go.

Some low-tech methods for keeping pets away from trees:

  • place sticky mats, crunchy aluminum foil or bubble wrap on or
    around the tree area
  • tie balloons around the tree 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 they'll noisily tip over if a pet jumps at or on the tree.

Gift ribbons and candy wrappers can be hazardous:

  • 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. Pets can be 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 or other
    small, sharp objects, call your veterinarian.
  • 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.
  • 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.


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