Here are 12 safety tips to insure your pets enjoy a healthy and safe holiday:
Candles burn: Curiosity can kill a cat. Knocking over a shiny candle could start a fire, not to mention that the pet’s fur could be singed. Scented candles can be dangerous for birds.
Meet the relatives: Some pets are social butterflies, others not so much. A constant flow of visitors can be traumatic to some pets (even more than it is to you). Don’t force your pets to interact with Aunt Gloria and Uncle Jay if they’d rather not.
Stress is contagious: The holidays can be filled with rushing -- to shop, to attend parties, concerts and shows, to entertain out-of-town guests, or to finish that big project before Christmas. Pushed to the max, you have no time -- not even for your best friend with fur or feathers. Pets pick up on our anxiety, especially if their schedules are thrown askew, and get equally stressed out.
Good housekeeping: Some pets, especially puppies and kittens, like to munch on fallen Christmas tree needles, but they can choke or suffer a serious upset tummy. Birds can perch on artificial trees, but they shouldn’t be allowed to chew the needles.
Avoid prickly Christmas trees: When choosing a tree, consider one with pliable, pet-friendly needles, such as a Douglas fir or white pine. They won’t stick in your pet’s paws and they’re easier to vacuum.
Beware where you kiss: Smooching under the mistletoe may be romantic for you, but keep it out of your pet’s reach, as fresh mistletoe is toxic.
Deck the halls: We all suffer from “Grandma Syndrome,” expressing love by feeding our pets treats. The truth is, a little tidbit of turkey, chicken or ham, and certainly some slices of carrot or apple, won't harm your pet. The problem arises when you overdo it. After all, a 150-pound person scarfing down five slices of turkey is no big deal. And while a German shepherd may be able to eat that much without stomach upset, a diminutive Yorkshire terrier or a cat might pay a price. Well-meaning guests may also sneak food to pets. The combined tidbits might be too much of a good thing. Eating fat or skin can lead to dangerous and painful pancreatitis. Bones can splinter and get lodged in a pet's throat, which can be life-threatening.
Holiday treats to die for: Don’t leave out Aunt Sally’s chocolate brownies for Santa if there are pets around. She may have used a sugar substitute called Xylitol in an effort to keep Santa trim, which is very dangerous to pets — as is the chocolate (especially the variety). Also, keep a watchful eye on the guacamole, which can make birds sick.
Tinsel and ribbon: Cats love playing with tinsel and can knock down an entire Christmas tree as they pull on those shiny strings. Secure your tree. Some cats and puppies are so fascinated by tinsel and ribbon that may eat it, which keeps veterinarians in surgery on Christmas Day.
Keep cats off: A small latticework fence around the base of the Christmas tree will prevent cats from testing their climbing skills.
No sugar plums in the water: Don’t add chemical preservatives or anything else to the water at the base of your Christmas tree in an effort to prolong its life. Homemade recipes include bizarre additives such as chicken soup, Vitamin C, dog urine (yuck!), bleach, even birth control pills. Aside from potentially making the water poisonous for a pet to drink, there’s nothing you can add that will make the tree last longer, experts say. A tree-skirt that covers the stand makes a good shield.
Everyone should get a present: As the family gathers to open presents, include all family members, even pets.