It is that season again, a season that presents many dangers to our companion animals. Just a quick reminder of some of the biggest threats over the holidays.
We all know about the dangers of chocolate and dogs. But other sweets can be dangerous. Sugar free treats that contain Xylitol can be deadly to dogs. There are not a lot of treats that use this sweetener, which is also found in some peanut butters, but the name is easy to remember, and a quick scan of an ingredient panel can reveal its presence (side note, reading an ingredient panel, for our pets or for ourselves, can be an eye-opening procedure, and might make your purchase decision for you).
Grapes, raisins, currants all contain substances that are dangerous to pets, as well as garlic and onions. Alcohol has the same effect on dogs as it does people, but dogs don’t have a DD or someone to tell them they’ve “had enough”, and this can put a dog in danger if it gets impaired.
Decorations can be a hazard, with cats finding Christmas Tree ornaments as the ultimate teaser toys, and dogs just loving to run into, under and around the tree, we can put them at risk, especially is they are left unattended. A cat climbing or jumping into a tree risks getting tangled in the decorations, and harming themselves trying to get out. Dogs running around a tree can trip on cords, or worse, knock the tree over. With LED lights there is less chance of a fire from an electrical source, like a broken lightbulb, but there are still dangers that present when a tree falls over, mostly that now the pets can access the ornaments, and some of those might look good enough to eat, but are made of glass, or another material that is dangerous to ingest.
Things like tinsel can also cause problems, it tempts cats like nothing else, and even some dogs. In playing with it, they may ingest pieces that can cause a digestive issue. It can irritate the gut, or worse, create a blockage, which may require surgical removal. Make sure these kinds of decorations are either inaccessible or secured, or better yet, both.
Cords. Many pets think that the rubber on cords is just the best thing ever to chew. Rabbits are well known for this, and some cats and dogs too. With so many plugs and cords that come out for temporary use during the holidays, the danger from these increases. Many décor items are now low voltage, with the transformer directly on the wall socket, but some still carry the full 110V charge that can seriously harm an animal. Be careful to seclude and secure your cords.
Scented candle/oils. Yup, time to get out the pumpkin spice, Christmas tree, candy cane or mulled wine air fresheners. Unfortunately, these items can be dangerous for pets. Not just the types of ingredients, but the method of their use. Putting a tasty bowl of molten wax right near floor level is asking for problems, as is putting a candle on a table, cats live to push things off tables. Ingestion and combustions are issues, for sure. But also, when we spray, or use other means of flavouring the air, the active ingredients tend to be heavier than air, and end up concentrating near/on the floor, right where our pets live. Some scents are irritating in high concentrations, like just after we spray. To a pet, that can be the concentration all of the time, from accumulation of all those sprays/oils/candles.
Lastly, bringing a pet into the home during the holiday season is something that must be done with caution. Purchasing a pet for someone who isn’t ready or willing to care for it properly can be a hazard to the pet. If you are thinking of adding a companion animal to your residence, try the option of putting a pet related item under the tree, and then involving everyone in the selection of the actual pet, making sure everyone is on board with the responsibilities. Added bonus is that the pet does not enter the home at the most stressful time of the year, when it is at it’s most vulnerable. Putting a dog bone, a cat toy, a rabbit cage or a retile terrarium under the tree can light up kids faces even more than the actual animal, because they get to be involved in choosing. It also removes the “I’m not cleaning up after it, I wanted a brown rabbit, not a white one” a few months down the line.
Common sense is usually enough to prevent holiday incidents with our companion animals, hopefully these little reminders help spark that common sense.