Pets face a unique set of dangers during the holidays. It's a busy time cooking and baking, decorating, gift giving and entertaining guests. What many pet owners forget is how this can affect their furry friends. They are as curious and excited as their owners, and there are many hazards that can be avoided with tips from the Smithtown Animal Hospital and Smithtown Animal Shelter.
Hazards with Home Décor
The mistletoe is hung, and the ornaments glisten on the tree hugged by a steam of colorful lights. What could go wrong? This is a hot zone for pets that are often curious and could chew on anything from electrical wires to toxic plants.
"Hazards are Christmas decorations that they could eat and swallow and electrical wires that they could chew like Christmas lights," said John Giglio at Smithtown Animal Shelter.
Chewing on cords and plugs of decorative lights and other fixtures can cause problems ranging from burns to electrical shock to electrocution. Unplug lights when leaving home or to be safer, use pet-proof extension cords.
Pets will often mistake shiny glass ornaments as swinging toy balls. Sharp or broken ornaments could become imbedded in a pet's mouth, throat, paws and other parts of the body. Avoid using glass ornaments and hanging ornaments on lower branches.
"People use glass ornaments on trees, pets could get their paws cut. Use plastic ornaments," Giglio said.
Pets may be tempted to eat tinsel or ribbon, which can block the intestines. Keep tinsel high and secure or leave it off the tree altogether.
"They could chew tinsel on the tree. Hanging ribbons could get wrapped around their neck," Giglio said.
Green foliage and colorful holiday plants are poisonous to pets if nibbled or eaten. Among the plants to keep out of reach are holly, lilies, mistletoe and poinsettias.
"Poinsettias are toxic, holly and mistletoe. Make sure they don't chew on toxic plants," said Joanne Gould at Smithtown Animal Shelter.
"If ingested, call poison control to find out if it's toxic, and keep them at a 24 hour facility," said Leslie Martin at Smithtown Animal Hospital.
Other items that could be a danger to not only pets, but to the household are candles. Keep candles out of the reach of pets. If knocked over, candles will cause burns or fire.
"Candles are a hazard to cats, dogs and even the house. Don't leave candles unattended," Gould said.
Cooking and baking may be a major part of the holidays, but be aware of what pets could get a hold of from people and from scraps.
"We get calls on pets getting into things they're not supposed to like chocolate and having excessive vomiting and diarrhea," Martin said.
Do not feed pets poultry bones. These can splinter, form sharp points and lodge in the throat, mouth and stomach, causing real problems, including infection.
"Bones from turkey can get lodged in their stomach," Martin said.
Issues Concerning Gifts
Pet owners' furry friends are like part of the family so giving them holiday treats is only natural, but opening gifts around pets could lead to problems if precautions aren't made.
"Dog treats put under the tree is not a good thing," Giglio said. "Parts of small kids' toys pets could eat and [they] could choke."
"Around little puppies, people should pick up anything with small parts," Martin said.
Be Cautious with Visitors
Pet owners should keep an eye on their pets during the arrival and departure of visitors.
"Guests open doors, open doors to a dog are to run out," Gould said.
With all the excitement of visitors, it's important not to let pets get too anxious or aggressive. Keep the stress level down. Make sure pets have a safe place to retreat in the house. They can't prevent the stressful situation, but their owners can.
"Dogs could get overexcited, and someone could get nipped," Giglio said. "It's important not to get them too worked up."
"There are medications and sedatives to help pets relax when people come in and out," Martin said.
Through the hustle-and-bustle of the holidays, pet owners should make a selection of safe choices for their pets to give them a peaceful and happy holiday without any traumatic mishaps or emergency visits to the veterinarian.