The holiday season is fun for friends and family, but many hazards to pets can go unnoticed, according to the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles.
"The most joyous time of year is unfortunately one of the dangerous times for pets," spcaLA President Madeline Bernstein said in a 2010 news release. "Taking some easy precautionary measures is the best way to ensure that you and your pet will have a happy and healthy holiday season."
Here are some suggestions for keeping pets safe from spcaLA and AllState Insurance:
- Keep holiday plants like poinsettias, holly, mistletoe, hibiscus and lilies away from your pets. According to AllState, certain plants affect certain animals and breeds differently, so make sure to research which plants are OK to have around pets. On a similar note, make sure pets stay away from human food. Fatty foods like turkey skin and gravy can cause pancreatitis, according to spcaLA, and cooked bones from leftovers can splinter and get caught in an animal's digestive system—which can be fatal. Also, chocolate is toxic to dogs because they can't digest it, and alcoholic beverages can cause nausea or an upset stomach in animals.
- Be careful with holiday decorations and Christmas trees. A dog or cat could break or knock down a tree while playing with an ornament. Tiny decorations, ornament hooks and tinsel can look appetizing, but they can be fatal if swallowed, according to spcaLA. Instead, use ribbon or yarn to hang ornaments. Avoid using long strings, lights or decor in areas pets can reach—they could get tangled up or choke, AllState warns. Cover electrical cords with tape and cord covers, so pets don't trip or get burned or electrocuted because they chewed through electrical cords, spcaLA advises.
- Avoid adding chemicals to a Christmas tree's water to make it last longer, AllState said. The chemicals could harm dogs or cats that choose to drink out of the bowl.
- Keep a pet's routine as consistent as possible. While the multitude of parties and last-minute shopping may be fun for people, pets like routine and don't adapt well to change, according to AllState. Create a "safe zone" for pets—a quiet room with their bed and their own toys—so they won't be stressed by the holiday hustle and bustle. Playing classical music may help.
- All dogs and cats should wear identification tags with their owner's current address and/or phone number in case they slip out during holiday festivities. Contact information on microchips should also be updated, according to spcaLA. AllState recommends that pets stay current on their vaccinations in case they do escape.
- Scented candles may smell nice, but they should be carefully watched so they're not tipped over. A curious cat may try to bat the flame and get burned. Make sure all candles are blown out before people leave the room.
- Keep a list of emergency phone numbers—including the veterinarian's, a 24-hour pet hospital and the Animal Poison Control Center—easily accessible, just in case. Nobody wants to spend the holidays in an emergency room, whether it's one for humans or one for animals, but it never hurts to be prepared.