Holiday Hazards

October 28, 2012

The weather is finally cooling off and the holiday spirit is in the air. Families will soon be getting together for holiday feasts and festivities. While we are planning menus and activities for our two-legged family, we must also think about our four-legged friends and how they are affected by our holiday season.
Pets often behave differently when there are added people in the house. My old border collie knew that she could beg from strangers with positive results. She never begged from us and in fact, would not even come into the dining room or kitchen when just my husband and I were home. Her manners all but fell apart with other people. She knew that we would not respond to nudges, but a stranger would likely pet her if she picked up their hand with her snout and they would throw her toy if she placed the slimy thing in their lap. All this can be rather embarrassing to one who thinks they have a well behaved dog.
To help avoid these embarrassments, make sure your pet has a safe-haven away from activity. Many dogs would prefer to hide in their crate rather than have small children climbing all over them, others love the attention, but you need to be prepared for your pet to need some special attention from you, away from all the hustle and bustle. And, remind your guests of rules for your pets. Ask them to refrain from feeding the dog from the table and to ignore the dog’s ploys for extra attention. They are welcome to play fetch and take the dog for extra walks, but not to respond to every big-brown-eyed-plea.
At Thanksgiving, the biggest hazard for pets is food. All that rich food is a lot more dangerous to your pet than it is to us. We might gain a few pounds, but a pet could get a bone lodged in his stomach or, even worse, pancreatitis could be the result of eating rich or fatty foods. The smells can be overwhelming for dogs and cats alike. My cat used to push things off the counter so that she and the dog could share. Don’t leave items un-attended on counters if there is any chance that your dog can possibly reach them. A normally well-behaved pet may be overstimulated by activity and aromas, or maybe they are jealous of all the attention being afforded to rarely seen family members. All this can lead to behaviors that surprise you.
Christmas trees will be arriving soon and these come with their own set of hazards. Water in the tree stand can become stagnant and the bacteria levels can be high enough to cause vomiting if pets drink it, so keep the water fresh or covered. Common tree preservatives contain fertilizers that upset pets’ stomachs, so either don’t use these products or keep the water out of reach.
Watch those electric extension cords. If a pet chews on these, they can get a serious shock and painful mouth burns. Rabbits absolutely love to chew on cords, but cats and dogs run a close second. Keep these hidden underground or under throw rugs to keep pets safe.
Pets can smell wrapped food presents a mile away. Do not leave these presents unattended under the tree. Dogs will consume ribbon and wrapping paper as they try desperately to open sealed cheeses, jams and candies. Ribbons and holly berries cause serious problems if they are eaten, and believe it or not, pets will occasionally eat a glass ornament. If you must use these items, keep them out of your pet’s reach. Tinsel is a problem every year. Cats tend to play with and eat this stringy stuff. When cats eat strings, ribbons or tinsel, the long material often makes its way into the intestinal loops where it begins to saw through the gut wall. If you see tinsel hanging from your cat’s mouth or rear end, DO NOT pull it out if there is any resistance. Sometimes these strings literally go all the way from the mouth to the rectum and if you pull, you will exaggerate the sawing effect. Get your cat to the vet immediately. Surgery is usually required to remove strands of ribbon or tinsel.
Many pet owners elect to use baby gates to protect their trees from rambunctious pets.
This works well for dogs, but a cat can still get to and topple a Christmas tree if they begin to climb. Try to place your tree where dogs and cats are restricted unless there is human supervision.
I know there is a lot to think about during this wonderful season, but a little time planning to keep your pets safe helps keep everyone happy and can save a trip to the veterinary ER.

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