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We know you want to spend your holidays making joyful memories, not in an animal hospital emergency room worrying about your beloved fur baby. In light of that, we thought we’d do our part to help you keep your pets safe this and every holiday season. Read on for our list of things to avoid and alternatives to consider.

Pet-Friendly Decorations

Most people spend a lot of time decorating their homes during the holiday season and don’t realize that some of that decor can pose a hazard to their furry family members. Some things to consider:

  • Candles are easily knocked over and can cause burns. Watch your pets around open flames, snuff out candles when you leave the room, and consider going flameless.
  • Trees can also pose a hazard, particularly for felines who like to climb. Trees are often heavy (and ornaments breakable!) and trimming the tree once is fun – twice is not. Prevent a disaster by securing your tree to the wall.
  • Veterinarians see an increase in foreign body ingestions during this time of year, especially these:
    • Cats love to play with tinsel and ribbon, which can lead to choking or accidental ingestion – a very dangerous situation requiring emergency surgery.
    • Some cats and dogs also chew light strands, which can cause electric shock, fire, intestinal blockage, or choking.
    • Crinkly wrapping paper can be irresistible, but wads of wrapping paper can get lodged in your pet’s GI tract.
    • To your pet, ornaments are toys, bobbing away on the end of a tree branch. Salt dough ornaments can be toxic, and other small ornaments can break or pose a choking hazard. Hang ornaments where pets can’t reach them.

Avoid Unhealthy Treats

Rich, high-fat foods are abundant around the holidays, but feeding them to your pet can lead to an inflamed pancreas, or pancreatitis, which can be life-threatening. We know it’s hard to resist the begging eyes, but do it! Or reach for a healthier “people food” treat like apples. If you’re feeling especially festive, choose one of the many healthy and wholesome homemade dog or cat treat recipes that can be found online.

Apart from fatty foods, other foods to keep off your pet’s plate include:

  • Sweets: Sugar isn’t good for dogs or cats, and many sweets (and some peanut butter) contain xylitol, an artificial sweetener that causes hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), seizures, liver failure, or even death in dogs.
  • Chocolate: Dark and baking chocolate are worse than milk chocolate, but all chocolate is toxic to your pets, due to caffeine and theobromine, which can cause kidney failure.
  • Bones: Whether cooked or raw, animal bones can splinter and perforate in the intestine, or pose a choking hazard.
  • Grapes and raisins: Even a single grape or raisin can cause severe vomiting due to its toxic components.
  • Onions, garlic, shallots: All members of the onion/allium family contain a compound that can lead to dangerous anemia in pets.

Don’t forget the trash! Make sure you keep trash cans covered or well out of reach of your pets so they can’t go diving for scraps.

Other Hazards

  • Make sure visiting friends and family members keep all medications out of reach of your pets (and children!). Many medications are fatal to dogs and cats if ingested.
  • If you have a Christmas tree, don’t forget to cover the water at the base. Many of the additives that help keep trees fresh are toxic.
  • Amaryllis, poinsettia, holly, mistletoe, and other popular holiday live plants are toxic to dogs and cats. Keep them out of reach or don’t purchase them.
  • Antifreeze is lethal to pets and tastes sweet, so even a small leak can be a problem. Clean up antifreeze immediately and don’t leave containers where pets can reach them.
  • Essential oils can be toxic to pets, whether breathed in, ingested, or even if they come in contact with their skin, so it’s best to avoid them in concentrated forms or in diffusers.

That list can seem daunting, but with a little preparation and watchfulness, you can ensure your furry family member has a safe holiday.

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