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Knowing how to keep pets safe during the holidays can mean the difference between spending Christmas Eve with your family and spending it in an emergency vet hospital. Unfortunately, those bells, bows, flashing lights, all the other things that make the season bright can quickly turn holly jolly into a real nightmare before Christmas. The good news? Nearly all tragedies are entirely preventable if you follow these tips below.
Tips to Help Keep Pets Safe During the Holidays
Benjamin Franklin was right when he said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” especially when it comes to keeping pets safe during the holidays. While an animal ER visit can run thousands of dollars on a holiday (not to mention the sheer heartbreak of losing a pet on Christmas), preventative measures cost you absolutely nothing. In fact, many of the tips are so simple that they won’t even cost you time! Let’s take a look.
Pay attention to these ingredients when baking
Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without cookies, right? Fortunately, you don’t have to give up baking, you just need to do it a lot more carefully. Start by making some yummy holiday cookies for your dog. They’ll help keep him from trying to steal yours! Then, take a close look at your ingredients. Nearly everyone knows that chocolate is toxic to dogs, but it’s not the only dangerous ingredient. Those raisins for your oatmeal cookies, for example, are even more deadly than chocolate chips.
You’ll need to pay attention when you’re cooking the roast beast as well. Onions are at the top of the list of dangerous foods for pets. Raw bread dough is another one to avoid. Not only can it expand and block your pet’s GI tract, but the yeast ferments into alcohol once in his system, according to Pet Poison Helpline.
Other hazards include grapes, currants, macadamia nuts, mushrooms, garlic, and xylitol (used in sugar-free recipes). Even safe foods can be problematic in large quantities, so keep your pets out of the kitchen and away from the feast.
Keep toxic plants out of your home
Mistletoe, poinsettias, and holly look beautiful hanging from your mantle or adorning your doorway, but that beauty comes at a price. They’re all toxic to pets, along with a fairly long list of other plants. Opt for artificial versions instead. Fake plants have come a long way over the years, so no one but you will be able to tell the difference unless they actually touch it.
While we’re on the topic of plants, real trees can pose a hazard as well, especially when pets try to ingest the needles. Don’t worry, you don’t have to give up your family tradition of choosing the perfect pine. Just pay attention and make sure your pets don’t gnaw on those needles. When you leave the house, block off the tree so they can’t get to it.
Leave dangerous decorations in storage
Tinsel is the greatest offender when it comes to dangerous holiday decorations. The stringy fake icicles are super tempting to cats, who may accidentally ingest it. When that happens, it can cause intestinal blockage, get wrapped around vital organs, or any other number of terrifying scenarios.
Glass ornaments are another major threat to your pets. As every cat and dog owner can tell you, at least one of your favorite ornaments will meet an untimely death at the hands of your pet. The sharp shards can cause both internal and external injuries, so stick with unbreakable ornaments. If you really feel like it’s not Christmas without grandma’s antique glass ball, stick it on a strong high branch and secure it with extra ribbon.
As for the rest of your tree’s adornments, just remember that nothing is 100% pet-safe, especially if you have a puppy or kitten that likes to chew things. Pay close attention and never leave lights plugged in when you’re not nearby to keep an eye on things.
Watch the weather forecast
Even if you don’t celebrate a single holiday, you’ll want to pay close attention to this tip. Unless you live someplace that’s warm year-round, you’ll want to keep an eye on that weather forecast before sending your dog outdoors to play. Between below-freezing temps, ice-covered walkways, and gale-force winds, winter can be extremely dangerous to our four-legged friends.
How much cold your dog can tolerate depends entirely on his age, coat, and size. A short-haired aerodynamically thin greyhound can’t withstand temps lower than about 45 degrees for very long. In fact, if you’re cold, chances are he is, too. Toy breeds also have lower tolerances than large breeds. Even thick-coated dogs can’t really handle temps below freezing for too long. When it gets that cold, take your dog outside to do his business, then bring him back in. Don’t leave him outdoors unattended, even if he is styling a super cute dog jacket.
Put your holiday guests on notice
You can do everything right all season long and still run into tragic problems when guests come to celebrate with you. Well-meaning uncles sneak cookies to Fido under the table. Rambunctious toddlers pull Kitty’s tail. Doors get left open and presents arrive wrapped in ribbons. In short, family parties are a veritable cornucopia of potential pet hazards.
While you can crate them or lock them in another room for short parties, it’s not really fair to hide them away for a whole weekend of festivities. As soon as your guests arrive, politely but firmly ask them to refrain from feeding your pets. Warn them that Fritz is an escape artist, so they’ll need to keep an eye out before opening the front door. Gently explain to children that tails and ears are not for pulling. Then, keep a close eye on your pets during the gathering, because at least one of your guests will completely ignore every last thing you said.
Know who to call in case of an emergency
If you follow all of the tips above, you shouldn’t need this one at all. So why is it even on the list? As we all know, even the very best laid plans go awry. Even if your regular vet has holiday hours, it’s smart to keep a list of all nearby animal hospitals, along with their addresses (for your GPS) and phone numbers.
Stick it on your fridge, in your phone, and in your wallet. It’s better to be over-prepared than waste precious moments trying to find an open animal ER that can see your pet immediately upon arrival. In fact, even if you don’t celebrate a single holiday, do this right now. It’s just one of those things that all pet parents need to know.
Keeping pets safe during the holidays isn’t as hard as it seems, even with all the potential hazards lurking around every corner. Control what you can- like toxic plants and dangerous décor- and monitor what you can’t- like weather and other people. Millions of pets make it through the holiday season unscathed. It just takes a smidge more diligence than other times of the year.
Written by Nicole from DogVills.com, a site dedicated to helping both new and seasoned dog parents lead the very best lives possible with their canine companions. She’s currently a pet parent to a Pharaoh Hound dog and three cats.
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