Holidays Are Here: How to Protect the (Furry) Ones You Love

With the holidays upon us, it's time to think safety for your furry friends.

Many years ago, when I had first moved into my house, my newly adopted dog, Sidney, a ridgeback shepherd mix, took it upon himself to water my newly staged Christmas tree.  

As his generous “output” sprinkled the branches and soaked the gifts below, I was shocked of course, but I also laughed at how quickly he decided to claim the tree as his. Little did I know this would start a tradition in our house. 

A holiday tree is a festive way to celebrate but they can be dangerous for your dogs and cats.
A holiday tree is a festive way to celebrate but they can be dangerous for your dogs and cats.

A few nights later, a loud crash jolted me awake around 2AM. I stared at the ceiling for a while, neck hair bristling, listening for the intruder I knew was surely there. The pulsing sound in my ears was met with nothing but silence so I got up and plodded down the hall. When I turned the corner and flipped on the light, there was the tree on it’s side. Several ornaments had rolled across the floor and a couple were broken into bits. Underneath the sofa were two glowing eyes staring out at me. Like Sidney, Sortia the cat had found the tree and decided it was hers. 

To tree or not to tree

After a few years of dealing with tree issues related to our numerous pets, we settled for just putting lights up outside  (we did not have four dogs and four cats at one point that caused all sorts of havoc… that was just a rumor). 

Cats love all the fun things to play with on a Christmas tree
Cats love all the fun things to play with during the holidays.

Without a tree, it’s just easier all the way around. And safer. Trees can be a big issue, which you know if you have pets. Here are some handy dandy tips to help if you put up a tree this year:

  1. Secure that blue spruce: Regardless of what kind you get, make sure it is anchored. Toppled trees injure many pets every year.
  2. Watch the water: A pine tree of about any kind will guzzle water (if you cut an inch off the trunk before you plant it). That water – especially when treated with preservative – can make a thirsty pet sick. 
  3. Go tinsel free: Cats love the fun of playing with – and ingesting –  tinsel. It will obstruct that digestive tract and you could very well end up paying Santa Vet for the holiday vs. opening presents with the family. Speaking of, ribbon for gifts is also in the same category: pretty but potentially harmful. 
  4. Watch the wires: Cats are the main chewer of wires but some dogs like them too. Best to be very careful and keep ‘em out of reach. Even though the current in your house isn’t that much, it can still kill or injure a pet. 
  5. The poisonous plant prevention plan: Holly, mistletoe and Lilies can be a real problem for pets. Best to not bring them home and if you do, keep them locked away.

Food folly

Food is a major part of how we humans celebrate. Speaking of, my pets celebrate anytime there is food so maybe they think every day is a holiday???

But, seriously, can you imagine what a super sensitive nose is like during the festival of food that occurs each year? Must be maddening. It can also be dangerous. Best to protect your furry friends:

  1. No drinks for dogs or cocktails for cats: My dog, Harper, will leap on any type of drink regardless of what it is. If you’ve got a horrible Harper in your life, keep them clear of your liquid refreshments. They can be very dangerous and cause everything from stomach upset to respiratory failure. 
  2.  No sweets for your sweetie: Chocolate is such a lovely, lovely treat but your pets need not know the joy of gulping down this wonderful stuff. It contains theobromine, which is harmful. And anything sweetened with xylitol is dangerous, as are leftover bones, turkey and chicken skins, the onions in stuffing and, actually, a lot of human foods in general. Best to stick with dog food from a reputable brand.

Keep chaos in the kennel

Naturally this year won’t be nearly as chaotic for most folks because of the pandemic. But if you’ve all been tested and have made the choice to get together, think about how that will impact your pets. 

Dogs and cats aren't huge fans of a change in their routines.
Your pet is a part of the family … but may not really want to be a part of your holiday celebrations.

As creatures of habit, a change in the number of people, the sound level and aunt Margie taking up that favorite spot on the sofa can be quite stressful. Best to set aside a place for your pets to weather the laughing (or screaming) that will undoubtedly unfold during your celebrations. This will help keep them calm, cool and collected. Also, watch those doors. With folks going in and out, a pesky pet can see this as an opportunity to flee the flurry of a hectic holiday. 

If your pet is particularly prone to stress, you can always talk to your vet about some type of calming agent such as trazodone or even calming treats or sprays. Another good rule of thumb is plenty of exercise prior to any event. This will help them sleep more easily once the festivities begin. 

Happy holidays

Finally, all of us at Pet Resource Center of Kansas City wish you a wonderful and safe holiday with your family and furry friends. If you need us, we’re always here ready and willing to help. 

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