Adorable pet at home with winter holiday season decorations

Holiday Pet Safety: Keeping Your Dogs & Cats Healthy & Happy this Holiday Season

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Blue Pearl, an animal emergency center with over 100 locations, reports a 372% increase in emergency visits around Christmas for pets ingesting chocolate. If pet parents knew a little more about how to have a safe and fun holiday by avoiding the most common holiday hazards, the holidays would be a less stressful time.

Holiday Hazards

Holiday trees are beautiful, but sometimes they can pose problems for our pets. This can be when they fall over or even when pets drink the water that can have chemicals in it. Pine needles and sap are mildly toxic to cats and can cause vomiting. The pesticides used on live trees can also be toxic.

Artificial trees pose problems as well. Since they are lighter than real trees, cats can try to climb them, which could result in them toppling over.

Decorative lights are an attraction for curious pets to chew on. Be sure to examine cords for any areas that are damaged or have bite marks. Electrocution can cause burns in the mouth as well as loss of consciousness.

Tree Safety

The cat in Santa hat looks out from the branches of a beautifully decorated Christmas tree with red glass balls and garlands of lights. Copy space

If you have a curious cat, hold off on decorating your tree when you bring it in. Allow your cat to investigate the tree for a while. Oftentimes, the cat becomes bored with the tree and leaves it alone.

Artificial trees are safer still. You’ll want to make sure you are using a sturdy base and keep the tree away from areas that cats could launch onto it, such as bookshelves, counters, and tables. You can also anchor the tree to the wall with clear fishing line.

You can wrap the tree trunk with aluminum foil or put the foil around the base to keep cats from climbing. Cats don’t like the smell of citrus, so you can add a little orange peel to the tree or spray the tree or the tree skirt with citronella or apple cider vinegar.

Put valuable ornaments at the top of the tree and attach the ornaments securely to the tree. Be sure to cover cords so that they don’t get chewed on.

Reward your cat for desired behavior around the tree. If you say “no” when your cat is playing with the tree, and your cat walks away from the tree, be sure to reward your cat with a treat. Providing a new, tall cat tree can also help keep cats away from the Christmas tree.

Holiday Hazards

Tinsel or ribbon can pose a serious hazard to cats if ingested. If swallowed, the tinsel or ribbon can get tangled in their gastrointestinal system and cut it, causing obstructions.

Chocolate is toxic to dogs and cats. Typically, a gift under the tree could unknowingly include chocolate, and the dog could get into the gift. The toxicity of chocolate depends on how much the dog eats, how big the dog is, and what type of chocolate was consumed. Baker’s chocolate is the most toxic. Signs of chocolate toxicity include vomiting, muscle spasms, and weakness. Sugar free candies have xylitol in them; these can cause low blood sugar and liver failure.

Many of the foods we love to eat during the holidays are harmful to our pets. Foods with high fat can be toxic to pets because their systems aren’t set up to process these foods the way ours are. Pancreatitis can occur when a dog eats rich food. Signs include vomiting, fever, and shaking.

Toxic holiday plants are also an issue. Poinsettias get a bad rap, but they are not that toxic. The sap can irritate the mouth of animal that chews on them. Mistletoe, on the other hand, is very toxic to pets. If your pet eats mistletoe, call your veterinarian immediately. Many species of holly or berries can be a problem. Lilies are toxic to dogs and cats, so it’s best to not have them in your home.

Holiday Stress

Holidays can be very stressful for animals. Disrupted routines can be common during the holidays, and this can cause stress, especially for cats. Visitors, lack of exercise, holiday decorations, and traveling can also be very stressful. Lastly, your stress affects your animals. Our pets are very intuitive and can develop issues based on your stress.

Signs of Stress in Animals

Portrait of an English Toy Spaniel in front of the Christmas tree. The whites of her eyes are showing giving her a startled appearance, as if she has just seen a mouse.

It’s important to recognize these signs. A stressed dog can have diarrhea while a common stress indicator in cats is an upper respiratory infection. Changes in appetite, litterbox issues, disrupted sleep patterns, and excessive hiding can signal stress. Excessive grooming is a stress signal in both cats and dogs. Panting or shaking is a common sign of stress as well.

How to Reduce Stress

Keep the regular routine and be consistent. If you have visitors or a party, make sure you provide a safe space that your pet can get away from all the activities. Provide regular exercise and play time during the holidays. Prevent stressful situations by keeping your pets in another part of the house if you have visitors. Giving dogs long-lasting chews will help keep them occupied. Giving cats new scratching opportunities can reduce stress.

Calming aids are also helpful tools to decrease stress. There are lots of chewable options, as well as calming apparel that helps with stress.

Tips for Car Travel

Pets need to be kept confined, whether in a safety harness, crate or pet seat belt.

Never keep your pets in a hot car where the temperature outside is 70 degrees or higher.

A lot of pets can experience car sickness. Make sure you have carsickness remedies on hand in case.

Also, make sure your pet’s crate is level in the car. Use a towel to prop underneath and keep their crate level when traveling.

Tips for Air Travel

With air travel, preparation is key. You need to start early if you’ll be taking your pet with you on the plane. Time your flight for less severe temperatures if your pet will be in the cargo hold. Try to get a direct flight is possible and be sure to check the specific requirements based on the airline you’ll be using.

Research airport pet relief areas. More airports are providing these spaces for pets that are traveling, so check to see if there’s one where you are going.

Prepping for stressful events early can help ensure both you and your pets have a fun and healthy holiday season.



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