Holiday Pet Safety

by | Nov. 27, 2009


Big, small, fur, scales - no matter the type, pets are an important part of the family. They can even add an extra measure of merriment to the holidays - who doesn't love a Santa hat on a dog (besides the dog)? This time of year poses extra challenges to pet owners and their curious friends, though, in the form of extra decorations, plants, and food. So to keep your holidays bright and pet-emergency free, consider a few simple safety measures for your favorite friends.

Feed your pet the right food. One of the basic rules of being a pet owner is knowing when and what to feed your pet. Each pet responds differently to different foods, so it is up to us as owners to find out what best suits our dog, cat, rabbit, or bird. Even if you don't intentionally give your animal food from the table (and you really shouldn't), accidental snacking is more likely to occur during this season of dinner parties and goodie making. Some common foods to take extra care of:

Dogs and Cats

  • Onions and garlic: Toxic; can cause anemia.
  • Grapes and raisins: Potentially fatal; causes vomiting, lethargy, abdominal pain, and renal failure.
  • Chocolate: The classic no-no; can affect the nervous system and cause heart problems.
  • Salt: One teaspoon can cause serious sickness.
  • Macadamia nuts: Causes dogs serious but temporary sickness through muscle weakness.
  • Fruit: Excess fruit (more than two tablespoons of high fiber fruit) can cause digestive problems.
  • Junk food: Rabbits have sensitive digestive systems that cannot handle these rich foods.
  • Avocados: Keep that guacamole dip out of reach! Avocados can be fatal for birds. While you're at it, store onions, mushrooms, and dried beans away from your feathered friends, since they are particularly toxic.
  • Junk food: Fatty food, or anything high in sugar or salt, is dangerous for birds - especially chocolate.

Put a lid on it (the trash, that is). Most animals have a passion for human food. In their defense, even the trash we throw away tastes superior to their food. However, the trash can is the perfect hunting ground, and it's also the most dangerous.

Chicken bones, toxic or rancid food, and sharp containers or edges are dangers to your pets. When trash is inside, keep it locked away in a cabinet or closet that is not easily accessed. When you take out the trash, be sure to put a lid on it. Or if you don't have lids, be sure it is inside a trashcan and not just lying up against the house. Though you may have limits to how far you will walk to take out the trash when the weather is cold, your dog or cat is entirely limitless when it comes to most foods.

Mind the small stuff. Ribbons, paper, cords, and tinsel - floor scraps around the holidays are inevitable. Although a few remnants of wrapping paper or ribbon on the floor may not bother you, it may be a danger to your pet. When pets ingest it, they can have intestinal problems and blockage. Ribbons and tinsel are of particular concern (especially for cats). Don't use tinsel; if you must, keep it sparse and high. If you see some of this glittering garnish with bite marks on it, assume it was your pet and take him or her to the veterinarian. Additionally, be extra vigilant about regular vacuuming during this time.

Outside the house, watch out for salted walkways. Aside from the sickness pets can experience from licking it, salt is also irritating to pet paws. Wash off their feet if they walk on salt.

Beware of holiday plants. Rarely do we think about poisonous plants. After all, most of the time we aren't going to eat it. Your pet, however, may have a different idea. Curiosity may get the best of your dog, cat, rabbit, or bird, and you may find them munching on your holiday poinsettia or lapping up the water meant for your tree, only to later find them curled up and feeling ill. Take necessary precautions. If you have a plant that is poisonous, such as a poinsettia or sprig of holly (which is toxic for birds), try placing it on a shelf or a counter where your pets cannot reach it or see it. For your tree, make sure to secure a plastic bag over the water (which can have fertilizer, pesticides, and tree food in it), and watch carefully to make sure your pets don't try to climb the tree!

Be sure to check out the National Humane Society's website at for the most up-to-date information on pet care.

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