It's time for the holidays and all the home decorating, parties and celebrations that come with them.
But beware: those fun times for you and your family could cause trouble for your family pet. Potential dangers that are easily overlooked with all the holiday activities and distractions.
Dr. Marla Lichtenberger, owner of the Milwaukee Emergency Center for Animals in Greenfield, encourages pet owners to take preventive measures that will ensure your furry family members have a happy holiday season without a trip to a veterinary emergency center.
Here are some of Lichtenberger's helpful tips:
- Food: Avoid feeding pets table scraps or leftovers such as grapes, raisins, garlic, onions, chives, avocado, chocolate or the artificial sweetener or zylitol, which can be poisonous. Zylitol is typically found in baked goods and highly poisonous to pets. Other foods that are extremely dangerous, include caffeinated drinks, coffee grounds, mint-flavored items, nuts, fat trimmings and animal bones, which can splinter easily and cause obstructions and lacerations within the digestive systems of pets. These foods can be extremely toxic and fatal to them if ingested.
- Pet Toys: Choose toys and gifts for pets that are pet-safe. Buy treats made for pets to prevent the temptation of feeding them human food from the holiday feast. Remember that dogs enjoy tearing things apart and cats fancy long, stringy objects, so avoid purchasing toys that have small pieces that can be swallowed and lodged in the esophagus, stomach or intestines.
- Poisonous plants: Although holiday plants and trees provide festive decors for our homes, they can be deadly to our pets. Those of particular concern, include poinsettias, mistletoe, holly, chrysanthemums, evergreens, ivy, juniper and pine needles, which can cause breathing difficulties, vomiting, diarrhea, trembling, hallucinations or death. Many varieties of lilies are lethal to cats, even in slight amounts. Prevent pets from drinking from Christmas tree basins and keep holiday plants out of reach.
- Antifreeze poisoning: Antifreeze is extremely toxic to pets and can easily cause death in even small amounts. Antifreeze that contains a bittering agent to counteract its sweet taste may not prevent pets from ingesting it. Keep it out of reach in a firmly shut cabinet.
- Ribbons and wrappings: Avoid the temptation to dress pets up using holiday ribbons and bows, and keep wrapping paper and utensils in tightly covered containers, and away from curious critters. Decorative ribbon “collars” can be choking hazards and if ingested, they can twist throughout the intestines, requiring surgical removal and possibly death.
- Decorations: Bright, colorful decorations can spark the interest of naturally curious pets. Place candles on high, stable surfaces so they can’t be knocked over by little paws. Don't leave lit candles unattended and put them out before leaving the room. Rope, icicle, netting and garland holiday lights can be dangerous to pets. In addition, electrical cords can cause tongue lacerations or death to pets that like to chew. Use grounded, three-prong extension cords as a safety precaution. Pets prone to chewing may also find sparkling, brightly-colored tree ornaments fun to play with. Position paper, glass and aluminum ornaments higher up on the tree to prevent choking or broken pieces from lacerating the mouth, throat and intestines.
- Home rules and holiday guests: With the holiday season comes an increase in activities and home visitors, which can disrupt routines, which pets become accustomed to. During this time, keep pets on regular feeding and exercise schedules that are as close to their normal routines as much as possible. As holiday guests arrive and depart, keep pets away from doors and under control to prevent them from bolting through open doors. Ensure cats have places to hide and access to their litter boxes. Decrease surrounding noise by playing music or turning on the TV. During the festivities, check pets often and provide them with frequent bathroom breaks and occasional walks.