Sunday, December 23, 2007

Holiday Pet Safety Tips

You can help keep pets safe during the holiday season by following the tips below:

• Many holiday plants can lead to health problems in dogs and cats including holly, mistletoe, poinsettias and lilies.

• Snow globes often contain antifreeze, which is poisonous to pets.

• Pine needles, when ingested, can puncture holes in a pet's intestine so keep pet areas clear of pine needles.

• Extra cords and plugs can look like chew toys to pets. Tape down or cover cords to help avoid shocks, burns or other serious injuries. Unplug holiday lights when you are not home.

• Anchor Christmas trees to the ceiling with a string to keep it from falling on pets.

• Do not let pets drink the holiday tree water. Some may contain fertilizers, and stagnant tree water can harbor bacteria. An ex-pen can be used to block access to electrical cords and gifts.

• Pets, particularly cats, can be tempted to eat tinsel, which can block the intestines.

• Put away toys after children open their gifts. 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.

• Avoid toxic decorations. 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.

• Holiday guests and other activity can be very stressful and even frightening to pets. Make sure pets have a safe place to retreat in your house. And make sure they are wearing current I.D. in case they escape out a door when guests come and go.

• Reduce stress by keeping feeding and exercise on a regular schedule.

• Many holiday foods, including fatty meats, gravies, poultry skin, bones, chocolate and alcohol, can cause illnesses from vomiting and diarrhea to highly serious pancreatitis and other toxic reactions. In addition, candy wrappers, aluminum foil pieces and ribbons can choke pets.

• 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 hotline at 1-888-4-ANI-HELP.

• If your pet ingests glass, broken plastic, staples or other small, sharp objects, call your veterinarian.

• Finally, now is a good time to double-check smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and other safety devices and replace batteries. Safety, of course, is the key reason -- but here's another good reason. When batteries run low, the devices often emit alert or alarm sounds at frequencies that can be painful and frightening to many pets.

Condensed from Robin Tierney's, "Dog Tip: Holiday Pet Safety Checklist"