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Pet Holiday Dangers

By Gay Published: December 4, 2009

It’s a busy, frenzied time for many dedicated Christmas celebrants, and the busier a reveler becomes, the more likely a pet is to be ignored, neglected, or insufficiently monitored.

Holidays may be great for merry-making, but your dog or cat may be bewildered by all that’s going on and become a bit neurotic. Some animals will join right in with all the gaiety—we had two kittens who thought the Christmas tree was put up and decorated just for their delight. They thought this for a couple of years, when they had put on over fifteen pounds each, and their pleasure in climbing the branches and curling up on a nice stiff limb led to the collapse of a big tree—in the middle of the night—with ornaments smashed—and two highly indignant cats yowling.

Here’s a short list of things to be aware of during the holidays to ensure your pets’ well-being. It is far from complete. Animals are smart, cunning, clever, and exuberant: They will surely think of other ways to wreak havoc. If it’s just a busted present or two, that’s not so bad (unless it is a dreadfully expensive, antique piece of crystal for your Aunt Bertha), but danger lurks beside their cute shenanigans.

Be sure your tree is attached firmly in its stand, and reinforce its stability by tying string or wire around the trunk and attaching to walls. If it’s wire, make sure that your pet can’t run into it. My “pet,” a 6’2” male, forgot he had wired the tree and when he walked behind the tree to retrieve something, he wacked his forehead against the wire, opening a cut. He cleaned it up with peroxide and antibiotic ointment, and although people asked what happened, he wasn’t telling! Do be sure that your animal can not harm him/herself on the reinforcing strings or wires.

Don’t leave candy around in bowls. A dog considers that a friendly invitation to partake of all of it. Chocolate can kills dogs, and it takes, for some breeds, surprisingly small quantities. Treats are not good for animals, so while you might be tempted to offer your pooch a little stuffing and mashed potatoes, resist. A bit of turkey for cats and dogs is appreciated, and it’s ok. Just forget all the other things.

Mistletoe is deadly—for humans and pets. We just aren’t likely to eat it. Cats are as prone to nibble at everything, but dogs are not as discriminating, so keep it, holly, ivy, all the lovely Christmas trimmings out of their reach. Poinsettias, too, are deadly, and cats occasionally like to nibble at plants.

Hang your glass ornaments high on the tree so that a playful kitten doesn’t bat it down, knock it around, and cut herself, or leave the broken remains for a dog to wander on to.

Dogs and cats love eggnog—at least, I have never known an eggnog my animals haven’t called ‘friend.” But don’t let them be buddies. It’s full of fat and not healthy for them (us, either, but that is some other blogger’s problem). If it is spiked, your animal WILL get drunk, and it WILL hurl or worse. Don’t offer ice cream. I know, I know, there is nothing quite like peppermint ice cream topped with hot fudge sauce to say “Christmas!”, but refrain. One of our long-ago cats adored pumpkin pie, and except for the sugar, there is really nothing wrong with it. I give my huge cat a tablespoon of raw pumpkin twice a day—he loves it, and it helps his digestive problems. If your dog decides to have a slice, it is not likely to hurt him, but all in all, it’s best to save those things for yourself.

People with small children may get so involved with wrapping, shopping, parties, baking, cleaning that the animal children are forgotten. Be sure not to neglect your dog’s walk or your cat’s playtime. Wrapping paper is not a good thing for a dog to ingest, nor is it good to put into the fire (the chemicals in the paper will cause a sudden flare), and it’s not ecologically friendly. Get the kids some stamps, some brightly colored poster paint, and let them make the wrappings. Watch out for ribbons and yarns and strings. A dog or cat can have a serious problem if s/he he swallows it and it gets wrapped around the bowel. If you see string hanging out of your pet’s butt, pull very, very gently—if it comes out, all is well. If it doesn’t, don’t tug—you could cut off the circulation to the animal’s organs. Seek veterinary help.

I tend to anthropomorphize animals, I’ll admit. When everyone is gathered around the tree, what does your pet see? Everyone getting a present. Be sure to include your pets. I knew a vet whose dog’s presents were placed in a special place, just as her children did. On Christmas morning, he would dash to his pile and open them (they were thoughtfully put in open paper bags). The family feline also had a stocking, and she would pull each toy out. They have feelings, too, and they love to know they are remembered as much as anyone else!

Submitted by Gay Fifer, Parsley Hollow, Inc.

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