As much as we love our pets, we do our best to protect them from danger all year long — and around the holidays there are special circumstances that put them at risk.
Many of these are obvious, but others are not — and that’s not even considering the anguish of watching a beloved pet suffer. In addition, the challenge of paying for expensive vet care to put right something that could have been avoided to begin with is no way to spend the holidays.
10. Toxic foods
Aside from the tummy upsets to be had from guests sneaking Fido too many treats under the table or Fluffy stealing off with a choice morsel from the kitchen counter, foods that can actually poison your pet are more common around the holidays.
Beware chocolate, particularly dark chocolate; unbaked bread dough; macadamia nuts; turkey; alcohol; fruit cake; raisins; sugar-free candy; and baked goods that include artificial sweeteners.
9. Hazardous decorations
Even full-grown dogs and cats can be prone to the dangers presented by Thanksgiving and Yule decorations, with puppies and kittens that much more so. Cats may be tempted to climb the Christmas tree or sample the poinsettia, holly or mistletoe, while dogs — puppies, particularly — may be curious enough to chew on anything from ornaments to plugged-in holiday lights.
Tinsel and pine needles can be deadly, too, as can water drunk from the tree stand. Make sure pets are kept away from decorations that can prove too tempting, and provide them plenty of fresh safe drinking water located far from the tree.
8. Guest appearances
No matter how much you love your relatives, sometimes they just aren’t pet people — or, conversely, they love them too much. Beware of small (screaming) children who can traumatize pets (and who can get knocked down or bitten if they push pets too far, which will also cause problems with their parents), and people who insist on feeding pets unsuitable treats, or too many treats, or empty the fish food container into the aquarium. And then of course there’s Uncle Rick, who thinks it’s funny to slip your dog a Scotch.
Not to mention that a constant stream of foot traffic in and out of the house can upset pets used to a quiet household. They might even take flight through one of the frequently-opening doors, which could lead to disaster — they could freeze, be hit by a car or get thoroughly lost. If your pet isn’t microchipped, you should give consider having it done before the holidays are much farther advanced.
7. Guests’ possessions
Think prescription drugs and personal care products brought by overnight guests — not to mention that secret stash of snacks or potent potables in Cousin George’s luggage.
Make sure the luggage, the secret stash, the medications and the drinks are safely protected from pet predations, lest the joyful holiday become a tragedy.
6. Upsets to the routine
Sensitive pets can be prone to tummy upsets if there’s too much commotion or too many unfamiliar people and things in their environment. That can lead to vomiting, diarrhea or just general mopiness — not something you want them to suffer through.
If Fido isn’t himself, consider a vet visit to see what’s wrong; there are so many opportunities for trouble around the holidays that it’s better to be safe than sorry. Better, make sure pets are sequestered in a quiet room if they’re easily upset, and if they are crate-trained, all the better.
5. Unwelcome gifts
Pets can be curious about wrapped and unwrapped presents, and some can be deadly — like unattended boxes of chocolate left within reach.
Other hazards are toys (not pet toys) that can be chewed into small sharp pieces; batteries that can be swallowed; and irate relatives discovering a destroyed pair of sheepskin slippers or a hole in Aunt Agatha’s prize quilt. And then there’s the wrapping, and the ribbon; any of these can pose a real threat to a pet’s health, up to and including surgery to remove foreign bodies from little tummies.
4. Falling trees
If your cat is inclined to climb, make sure you anchor the Christmas tree so it can’t overbalance if Fluffy decides to view the festivities from the treetop. A falling holiday tree, whether fully decorated or just brought into the house, can present deadly danger to pets — whether to the cat who climbs it or the dog who thought the tree skirt was a nice place to nap.
3. Candles and fireplaces
Pets, and guests, can knock over burning candles or fireplace screens, and pets who are overcurious or fleeing over-excitable children could be seriously injured in their quest to escape.
Be sure that open flames of any kind are shielded from pets, so that there are no disasters to mar the celebration.
2. Automated toys
If your house is filled with youngsters trying out everything from drones to radio-controlled cars, make sure pets are shut away from the action lest the youngsters lose control of their automated entertainments and pets be the ones to suffer.
1. New cookware
As odd as it may sound, if you keep pet birds and you got new cookware for the holidays, don’t use those new pots and pans without opening all the windows and degassing them.
Some nonstick pots and pans give off gases when first used that can kill pet birds. You don’t want your canaries or budgies succumbing to the fumes of that fancy new cookware set just because you were in a hurry to use them