Keep Your Pet Safe This Holiday Season—and All Winter Long
Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe help to make the season bright (thank you, Nat King Cole), but the holidays and winter can be fraught with peril for pets. This time of year is loads of fun — those first days of cooler weather give us a little spring in our step, and the prospect of time with family, as well as the opportunity to indulge in ways we rarely do, is exciting — but there are a few things you need to know to protect your furry friends.
Baked goods, casseroles, champagne toasts, and hot toddies — such are the things of a humans holiday diet. But they can be disastrous for pets. Rich, fatty foods can bring on a nasty bought of pancreatitis. Poultry and fish bones can damage a dog’s digestive tract. Alcohol can make a pet ill and even cause respiratory failure. Everyone knows that chocolate is bad for dogs, but sugar alone can cause stomach upset in pets, and uncooked bread dough can cause a condition called gastric-dilatation volvulus, which is a twisted stomach that can lead to death. And, of course, too many calories can cause a pet to become overweight, which carries a whole host of issues.
Cats are especially fond of Christmas trees, shiny tinsel, and shimmering ornaments — they all look like kitty’s idea of a grand time. If you put up a tree, it’s a good idea to place it in a corner and then anchor it to a wall or the ceiling, so that when your cat goes for a climb, it is less likely to fall. Hang smaller, more fragile ornaments up high, out of reach of both dogs and cats, and skip the tinsel altogether. It can cause an intestinal blockage that can be remedied only by surgery. People think that poinsettias are a problem, but mistletoe, holly, and many varieties of lilies are worse. Keep them away from all pets.
The holiday season is filled with parties, and pets who enjoy people will like having visitors over as much as you do. But some pets can become overwhelmed with excitement and need an escape. Make sure your dog or cat has a crate to rest in or a room to go to, should he need to get away from the action. For some pets, children can be distressing. If you have young guests, make sure they know how to safely interact with your animals—no pulling the cat’s tail or screaming in the dog’s face. And always know where you pet is before you answer the door. Train him to “wait,” secure him in another part of the house, or have him on a leash before you open up to let guests in.
Even after the holiday season ends, hazards remain. Winter brings its own troubles. Even though they have fur coats, pets can suffer hypothermia and frostbite. The best way to keep your pet warm is to keep him inside, with you. If possible, let your dog or cat sleep in your home at night. If that’s not possible, provide him with shelter that is off the ground, protected from wind, and small enough to be cozy yet large enough for him to turn around in. When your pet goes out on snow or ice, be cautious of his feet and clean them off thoroughly when you come back inside, especially if he walked on a side walk or road treated with salt or a de-icer. You don’t want him licking those chemicals off his paws. And be wary of antifreeze spills. Both dogs and cats are attracted to the liquid, which is toxic to pets.