Monday, November 30, 2009

Deck the Halls with Fido & Felix: Pet Christmas & Holiday Safety Tips

Its that frantic time of a year again! Time to trim the tree, deck the halls, sing carols & of course host a Christmas dinner party. As the “Hostess with the Mostess” this holiday season you are in charge of entertaining a dinner party of 8. As Uncle Ernie snores in your recliner you keep an ear open for the timer signaling it time to baste the ham.

Like a musical score you have managed to plan a menu and compose a beautiful 5-course meal. Which by the way as the official taster you’ve managed to taste every course & morsel within spoons reach. Leaving you fully satisfied all you want to do now is enjoy the beautiful place setting, conversation and perhaps dessert. Besides, with so many leftovers a midnight snack is a must and the creature stirring and tiptoeing the night before Christmas will be you to the fridge (psst..this will be our secret).

As you frantically stir, mix, baste, taste, pour and lick your battered fingers your loyal yet salivating dog waits patiently. For what you may ask... for you to drop just one mouse size crumb of your grandmothers plum pudding. Of course being the season of giving and granting wishes you oblige. Little do you know that your has his eyes set on that juicy ham, covet operation GRAB the ham is in effect.

You go down the checklist and everything is in the oven and tree is beautifully trimmed. Now you can take a moment to breath and sit back. All you want to do is bask in a brief moment of silence with a big sigh. So you steal a few seconds to sip a cup of eggnog and listen to seasonal favorites like Jingle Bells. But you are quickly remained that you are not alone when you hear the slamming of doors and screaming children running up the stairs. Oh, yes their muddy snow boots are a sure sign that they have just arrived back from a long afternoon playing snow ball fight & building snowmen. But when you thought you had everything done on your to-do-list you realize your work is not done. Then out the door to pick of your mom and dad at the airport. Hey, at least you enjoyed serenity while it lasted.

So as you see with so many things to do, dishes to prepare, places to be and people to greet this season it is so easy to forget the important word “SAFETY”. No one wants to make a last minute call or run to the vet or emergency room just as your husband is about to carve the ham. So, to take away some of the stresses of the holiday's here are some simple tips on making the holiday safe & festive for your pet, kids and family.

1. Don’t give Scraps- It is so easy to give your dog leftovers or table scraps from the meal you wonderfully prepared. But this can do more harm then taste good. Not only is it bad for Fido waist line. Man there goes that New Years Resolution! But it can put a strain on their sensitive digestive systems. Make no bones about it! Feeding your dog turkey or chicken bones, and rawhides can cause choking, digestive problems and puncture the intestine. Also, bone shards can get stuck in your dogs gum. So, instead treat your dog to a safe and healthy dog treat.

If Fido is still turning his snout up at his dish that looks like unpleasant roadkill then here is a better option. Instead opt for organic, holistic, and all-natural dog food that is just as tasty. It contains no preservatives or bi-products, very healthy and easier to digest. And yes, it contains real meat, not that fake rubber stuff from 1950's tv dinner. Hey, you may be tempted to swap dishes with Fido. Merrick is a great choice, with an array of gourmet entrees from the Puppy Plate, Senior Medley, to their holiday favorites such as Thanksgiving Day Dinner, Venison Holiday Stew to the famous Turducken these are doggy crowd pleaser. For all you cats they even have some yummy flavors that even the most finicky feline can’t resist.

2. Beware of Toxic Plants- Although beautiful festive Holiday plants like holly, amaryllis, mistletoe (pucker up!), poinsettias and lilies can be harmful & deadly to dogs and cats. So if you are going to decorate with plants this season keep them out of paws reach or opt for other alternatives.

3. Snow Globes are toxic if Shattered-Snow globes often contain antifreeze, if shattered is poisonous to pets if licked. Be very careful with these around pets and children.

4. Holiday Sweets are Not Good dog eats- Giving your dog candy, cookies, cakes, peppermints, and especially chocolate can cause life-threatening illnesses. So keep all desserts away from Fido on a very very very high shelf so they cannot reach. If your dog is an expert at paw lifting then you may want to invest in infrared lights and survelliance cameras. Okay, perhaps that's a stretch. Your mission if you dare to accept it, is to get dinner to the table safely in one piece minus the doggy teeth marks.

5. Keep Dish Free of Pine needles- Keep your pets food dish far away from pine needles. If ingested can puncture your pets intestines.

6. Give your dog a safe chew toy- Pets can get in a lot of mischief and play with extra cords, plugs, holiday lights, fixtures and slippers mistaken for chew toys. So, tape down or cover cords to help avoid shocks, burns or other serious injuries to your pet and hide those slippers. While you are out running errands unplug lights when you are not home.

7. You didn’t say Timberr!!!- Cats love climbing to top of Mount Everest on your Christmas tree. With that said its important to cat proof your tree, because you don't want your cat losing one of its nine lives. So anchor your Christmas trees to the ceiling with a string to keep it from falling on pets.

8. This Ain't No Watering Hole-Do not let pets drink the holiday tree water. Some may contain harmful fertilizers if ingested, and stagnant tree water can harbor bacteria. Check labels for tree water preservatives and artificial snow, and buy all natural and nontoxic alternatives. Some folks use screens around trees to block and barricade their pets & small children access to electrical cords and gifts.

9. "No, Trees Do Not Get Headaches- Very important: do not put aspirin in the water. Some folks do this to keep the tree or plant alive longer. If a pet ingests the aspirin-laced water, his health or even life can be at risk.

10. Hang tinsel high- Pets, particularly cats, are fascinated with all things shiny and can be tempted to eat tinsel. Although tinsel provides a beautiful glisten to your tree if ingested by your pet can block the intestines. So, hang tinsel high and securely to keep it out of paws reach.

11. "Now thats a Mouthful"- Keep all ornaments out of reach of pets, especially those that are sentimental. Ingestion of any ornament, which look like toys to pets, can be life-threatening. Even ornaments made from dried food can lead to ailments. And remember, shards from broken glass ornaments can injure paws, mouths and other parts of the body. So, if an ornament breaks make sure to get out your sweeper and clean up the mess immediately or your pet may do it for you.

12. Put toys in the toy box- Even though little Tommy may scream and throw a tantrum, make sure he puts away his miniature army of toy soldiers. Once gifts are opened and children are done playing, toys should be safely put away in their room or toy chest. Small plastic pieces and rubber balls are common causes of choking and intestinal blockage in dogs. Ingested plastic or cloth toys must often be removed surgically. By having your child put their toys away you won’t have to console a tearful little Tommy over the unfortunate demise of toy soldiers.

13. Opt for Non-toxic decorations. Sorry to rain down on your parade but as a precaution as you decorate your home or tree for the Annual Neighborhood Holiday Decorating Contest. Just bare in mind the following: Bubbling lights contain fluid that can be inhaled or ingested, snow sprays and snow flock can cause reactions when inhaled, Styrofoam poses a choking hazard, tinsel can cause choking and intestinal obstruction, and water in snow scenes may contain toxic organisms such as Salmonella.

14. Create Safe Haven- With the non-stop ringing of the door bell, expected and sometimes unexpected holiday guests, Christmas Carolers, kids running & screaming, pans banging, china breaking, and doors slamming. The hoopla of the season can be stressful, frightening and exciting to any pet. Stress, fright and excitement can trigger illness and intestinal upset. Make sure pets have a safe place to retreat in your house and a comfy place to flop.

Also, don’t be afraid to give your dog a break in a quiet room with their familiar doggie bed or in his den. Allow your canine companion, co-hostess and official Christmas Licker & Greeter to join the festivities after the initial commotion & excitment from the arrival of guest and dad dressed as Santa have subsided.

Important Note: For furry Escape Artist (they know who they are) make sure they are wearing current I.D. in case they escape out doors as guests come and go.

15. Be on Schedule- During the Holidays it’s important to have a sense of normal in the midst of chaos. Reduce your pets stress by keeping feeding and exercise on a regular schedule. Once again, do not give your pet table scraps.

*Exercising your dog for 30 minutes prior to arrival of guest will keep both of you happy and get your dog napping.

16. TLC Required- Always make time to care and nurture your pets, besides isn't he or she part of the family. With the busyness of the season it is so easy for folks to get lax about walking their dogs, and a few resort to letting pets out on their own. This puts the animal in danger, can lead to nuisance complaints and dog bite incidents. Although it may be tempting do not take a holiday from responsibly caring for your pet. With so much on your plate taking care of a pet can be a juggling act, so call in reinforcements. Enlist the help of a responsible teenager, neighbor, family member or friend as the official surrogate parent. They can be in charge of walking, feeding and playing fetch with Spot. But, we can't forget the all-important task of belly rubs and treats.

17. Quench their thirst- When pets are stressed by holiday activity or during travel, they may require more water. Dogs typically pant more when they feel stressed. Keep fresh water available for them to drink.

18. Guard Gifts & Packages- Nothing says Merry Christmas to grandma then a ripped, torn and half eaten crocheted sweater with matching scarf. Which by the way you made in a beginners knitting class and to add coal to the fire it took over a month to make. So, for everyone’s sake keep pets away from gift packages as well as your gift-wrapping area. Ingested string, plastic, cloth and even wrapping paper can lead to intestinal blockage and require expensive surgical removal. Not to mention pets have been severely injured by scissors and other items left on floors and tables, disguised as play toys.

19. Take out the Garbage- With so much food there is bound to be a few scraps going in the garbage from bones, rolls, to a half eaten drumstick. Not to mention your finicky, yet sweet little niece is known not to finish her plate of string beans and ham unless bribed by Santa. With that said keep pets away from the garbage and use pet-proof containers. As a side note if you are going to be discarding some food don’t forget peels, uneaten fruit, and flowers can be placed in your compost. This not only means less waste in the landfills but now you have a great fertilizer.

20. Call for Emergency Help- It is always good to be prepared for anything, especially a call or run to your vet or doctor. So have emergency numbers posted on the side of your fridge just in case. If you suspect that your pet has eaten something toxic, call your veterinarian and/or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center's 24-hour emergency hot line (1-888-426-4435). Keep in mind that the key to your pet survival is to act fast, remain calm and don't panic. You don't want to upset your pet or make an already stressful situation worse.

21. Check Detectors- By the way, with so much cooking, house guest, Christmas lights and candles being lit its important to be checking it twice, detectors that is. Now is a good time to double-check smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, other safety devices and replace batteries. Always keep an extra pack of batteries on hand. Remember the safety of your family and loved should always comes first.

But another good reason to check these safety devices is for your your pets well-being. When batteries run low, the devices often emit alert or alarm sounds at frequencies that can be painful and frightening to many pets. If you're not home when the alert/alarm sounds, your animals will have to endure that sound until you return, which can be traumatic. So always keep fresh batteries in those devices.

22. Beware of dropping temperatures, ice & snow- With the arrival of guest you may be tempted to put your dog outside. It can be very dangerous putting your dog outside in the cold & freezing weather with pavements covered in ice. To avoid huge vet bills, broken bones and injures it’s best to keep pets in doors.

Important Note: Don’t let your dog roam the streets alone on icy roads. Ice can make it harder for cars to put on the break when they see a wandering pet cross the road.

23. Squeaky Green- With guest coming to visit this season its all about making a lasting impression. So opt for green cleaning products with the green seal of approval such as Method, Seventh Generation or Mrs. Meyers. These eco-friendly cleaning solutions will keep your house dust mite free. If you want you can even use lemon, vinegar and baking soda that would put Mister Clean to shame. These basic ingredients are non-toxic to both you and your pet and very effective in fighting dirt & grime. Now your dog can retire as the official floor mopper & shoe shiner, its on to bigger and better things.

24. Give a gift to Buster- You may be wondering whether or not to give your beloved, yet bad to the bone pup a present this year. But as the phrase goes "Tis the season to give" and that includes that sometimes hard to love chew-minator whom you can't live with, but can't live without.

Well, with all the entertaining you will be doing you may want to say yes to gifts. Giving your dog a new toy on his wish list will not only keep him entertained, but out of harms way. Now you can carry hot dishes from the kitchen to the table worry free. You won’t have to worry about spilling your 5 course meal on the floor, stepping on paws or having to stare at those begging puppy eyes. So, save a shoe and throw your dog and the planet a green bone.

By keeping these safety tips in mind the Holidays are sure to be a cheery one for everyone, including your pet. When all is said and done you have truly earned the name and badge "Hostess with the Mostess".

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Jess said...

Thanks for these safety tips, many first time pet owners don't think about when decorating or preparing for the holidays. We appreciate this post we've seen many pets suffer from simple holiday mistakes by owners.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for spreading the word on pet safety - AWESOME information! :) Here are some more tips from Pet Poison Helpline, another animal poison control based out of Minneapolis. Thanks for spreading the word!

Dr. Justine Lee, DVM, DACVECC
Associate Director of Veterinary Services
Pet Poison Helpline

The holidays are stressful enough without having to worry about a potentially poisoned pet. Below is a list of holiday-related decorations, plants and food items that the veterinarians at Pet Poison Helpline recommend keeping away from pets.

• Holiday Ornaments: When decorating for the season, consider your pets. Holiday decorations such as snow globes or bubble lights may contain poisonous chemicals. If your pet chews on them the liquid inside could be could be dangerous to their health. Methylene chloride, the chemical in bubble lights, can result in depression, aspiration pneumonia and irritation to the eyes, skin and gastrointestinal tract.

• Tinsel: If you own a cat, forgo the tinsel. What looks like a shiny toy to your cat can prove deadly if ingested. Tinsel does not pose a poisoning risk but can cause severe damage to a cat’s intestinal tract if swallowed. Ultimately, cats run the risk of severe injury to, or rupture of their intestines and treatment involves expensive abdominal surgery.

• Alcohol: Because alcohol is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, it affects pets quickly. Ingestion of alcohol can cause dangerous drops in blood sugar, blood pressure and body temperature. Intoxicated animals can experience seizures and respiratory failure. Additionally, foods such as desserts containing alcohol and unbaked dough that contains yeast should be kept away from pets as they may result in alcohol toxicity, vomiting, disorientation and stomach bloat.

• Holiday Foods: With the holiday season comes a delightful variety of baked goods, chocolate confections and other rich, fattening foods. However, it is not wise (and in some cases is quite dangerous) to share these treats with your pets. Keep your pet on his or her regular diet over the holidays and do not let family and friends sneak in treats. Foods that can present problems:
- Foods containing grapes, raisins and currents (such as fruit cakes) can result in kidney failure in dogs.
- Chocolate and cocoa contain theobromine, a chemical highly toxic to dogs and cats. Ingestion in small amounts can cause vomiting and diarrhea but large amounts can cause seizures and heart arrhythmias.
- Many sugarless gums and candies contain xylitol, a sweetener which is toxic to dogs. It causes a life-threatening drop in blood sugar and liver failure.
- Leftover, fatty meat scraps can produce severe inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) leading to abdominal pain, vomiting and bloody diarrhea.

• Liquid Potpourri: Filling your house with the smell of nutmeg or pine for the holidays may seem inviting—but if you’re partial to heating your scented oils in a simmer pot, know that they can cause serious harm to your cat; even a few licks can result in severe chemical burns in the mouth, fever, difficulty breathing, and tremors. Dogs aren’t as sensitive, but it’s still better to be safe than sorry—so scent your home with a non-toxic candle kept safely out of kitty’s reach.

When it comes to the holidays, the best thing a pet owner can do is get educated on common household toxins and pet-proof your home accordingly. If you think your pet has been poisoned, contact your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline at 800-213-6680 ($35/call vs ASPCA's $60/case) with any questions or concerns.

heatherzilla said...

Great tips! Thanks!