The holidays are upon us and with so many new pet owners having adopted during the pandemic, it is a good time to review the hazards the season can bring.
The holiday season brings with it many new sights, sounds, smells, and people. It also brings new dangers of guests leaving doors open or sharing foods that should not be given to pets.
Preventing escape for either dogs or cats is best handled by putting the pet in a separate room with a sign that they are not to be disturbed and not to open the door. Unfamiliar faces and activities can cause anxiety leading to pets getting the urge to bolt. Leaving on a television or radio can drown out unfamiliar sounds and let them rest.
Holidays also mean holiday foods which can be a new treat—or hazard—to pets.
There are many foods people enjoy that are dangerous or deadly to pets. Chocolate is a delicious part of the holidays for many people, but it is toxic to dogs and cats. Keep these delicious treats out of reach for pets to avoid a trip to the Veterinarian.
Turkey bones and turkey skin can be choking hazards and even lead to a life-threatening condition in pets known as pancreatitis. Other foods to avoid are ham, mushrooms, nutmeg, onions, garlic, nuts, and of course alcohol, keep the seasonal cocktails to your guests.
Of course, there are some things on the holiday table pets can enjoy, but often they are combined with ingredients they should not, so if you give them a taste of anything make
sure they are lightly seasoned or with very few ingredients. Vegetables like asparagus or green beans are great for dogs!
Holiday decorations come with a new set of challenges.
The flickering lights or sparkling icicles may be too much of a temptation to a cat; biting or swallowing can mean electric shock or a gastric blockage.
Amaryllis, mistletoe, balsam, pine, cedar, and holly are among the common holiday plants that can be dangerous and even poisonous to pets that decide to eat them. Poinsettias can be toxic.
Many accidental fires are started by candles and flickering flames can be attractive to pets who will, unfortunately, suffer burns. There are LED alternatives that are safer than flames.
New Year’s Eve can come with the new challenge of lots of noise and fireworks just like the Fourth of July. Make sure that pets are de-stressed before the festivities begin. Play with the laser pointer or go for a good long walk, then put on some music and keep them in a separate room to be safe.
If you are getting a new dog or cat from a shelter or rescue, most are microchipped. But if you get one from a friend, make sure to get them microchipped just in case they get out so if taken to a vet or shelter you can be reunited.
Many products and distractions can help ease the fear in pets.
Thunder shirts act like a calming hug. Bach flower products, when started days before, have a calming effect to take the edge off and are natural substances. Putting on classical music can soothe if it isn’t the overture with fireworks.
If you already know a pet won’t relax with these methods, then going to your vet and discussing a possible tranquilizer or boarding pets away from the noise might be the best solution.
Most important to remember is: Don’t adopt a new pet “just for the holidays.” Be sure it is a commitment that can be kept for the next 15 to 20 years.
Yvette Berke, an animal advocate with over 30 years of experience in rescue, care and adoption, is an outreach manager for the nonprofit Little Angels Project.