Keeping Christmas Merry for you,your pup and your guests

Christmas trees are very enticing to everyone but make sure your pup is not under the tree trying to sample the tinsel, presents ordrinking the tree water.

Here are a few worthwhile safety tips from Dr. Fosters and Smith.

Christmas Trees

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, how careful we must be. Christmas trees and their decorations can create hazards for pets.

Place Christmas trees in a stable stand, and attach the tree securely to a window or wall with something like fish line. We have known others who have hung their tree from the ceiling! To keep pets away from the tree, it may help to use a Scat Mat. While most dog owners use an indoor exercise pen to provide a safe place for a pet to play, during the holidays, some people place the pen around the tree. Even though you take precautions, make sure your dog is always supervised when in a room with a tree.

Tree needles can be toxic and cause mouth and stomach irritation. Even needles and the wire of artificial trees could pose a problem. Be sure your dog is not chewing on branches or eating fallen needles.

Tinsel’s shininess is attractive. When eaten, it can cause blockages, which often require surgery to remove. Leave it off the tree altogether.

Angel hair, flocking, and artificial snow are mildly toxic. If consumed in larger amounts, however, they could cause blockage of the intestine. Try decorating with something less likely to cause a problem.

Chewing on electrical cords, including cords of lights can cause problems ranging from burned mouths, to electrical shock to death by electrocution. Some larger lights can become quite hot, and could also cause burns. Unplug decorative lights when you are not there, use pet-proof extension cords, and spray cords with a product such as Bitter Apple or Chew Stop.

Dogs will often play with glass ornaments as if they were balls and serious oral lacerations can result. Sharp ornament hooks can also become imbedded in your pet’s mouth or esophagus. Place ornaments that are shiny, or could be swallowed or broken high up on your tree. Larger, less intriguing ornaments can go near the bottom.

Decorating trees with food is asking for problems. Candy canes and gingerbread people can be as enticing to your dog as they are to children. We know of one diabetic dog who ran into some problems with regulating her disease because she was stealing candy canes off of the tree. Popcorn, raisin, or cranberry garlands are beautiful, but can cause an obstruction when eaten, requiring surgery.

Because tree preservatives are often sugar-based (and inviting to dogs) and because the water stands so long, the water in the tree stand often harbors potentially harmful bacteria. Fertilizers, insecticides, or flame retardants that were used on the tree may also get into the water. Cover the stand with a tree skirt or use other means to prevent access to the water.

Poisonous Plants

We all like making our homes more festive for the holidays. We enjoy the green foliage and colorful flowers of plants. Unfortunately, many of the plants we have in our homes during the holidays can be poisonous to pets. If ingested, holly (leaves and berries) causes stomach upset and can be potentially fatal to both dogs and cats. Mistletoe upsets stomachs and can cause heart collapse, while hibiscus may cause diarrhea. Poinsettias have an irritating sap that can cause blistering in the mouth and stomach upset. So when you brighten up your home, place these plants well out of your dog’s reach, or use imitation holiday plants.

Decorations and Wrappings

All that glitters is not gold – it could be dangerous for your pet.

Ribbons, yarn, and string can cause intestinal obstruction and bunching of the intestine along the length of the string. These conditions require surgery and can be fatal. Ribbons around your dog’s neck may be cute, but they can also be dangerous.

Adhesives and glues can be toxic and are often attractive to animals.

Potpourri contains oils that can be toxic to dogs if eaten. We may not think of eating it, but some curious pets may.

Candles can cause burns and fires. Never leave lighted candles unattended or within reach of your pet.

Few things are more tempting to a playful dog than a game of tug. This is not a good game, however, to play with the end of a tablecloth. Try to keep items such as tablecloths, table runners, etc., from hanging too low to the floor, and tempting happy dogs running by to grab an end and pull!

Gifts Under the Tree

Rawhide or other edible items left under the tree can be very tempting, and remember that companies (even Drs. Foster & Smith!) often package rawhide or other pet gifts wrapped in ribbon. Make sure to remove ribbons or ties before you present gifts to your dog. If played with and swallowed, yarn, ribbon, or string on gifts can cause intestinal obstruction, requiring surgery.

Perfumes and after-shaves contain ethanol (alcohol) and perfume also contains essential oils which can be very toxic to dogs if ingested.

Batteries for toys or other gifts can be toxic and cause intestinal obstruction. Keep in a safe place until they are ready to be inserted in the gift.

Visitors

Some pets love visitors and behave very well. Others may be fearful or aggressive. Some puppies may urinate when meeting people. Still, others may be too full of holiday cheer and over-exuberant. Plan for how your dog will react to visitors.

A quiet room, away from the commotion with water and food available will help fearful dogs be more comfortable.

Brushing up on obedience training before the holidays may help a dog who has become a little rusty. Be sure to inform your visitors of any household ‘rules’ or problem behaviors concerning your pets, e.g., sneaking out the door, jumping up on the couch, getting food from the table, etc.

For dogs who may not behave or could be aggressive, placing them in a separate room, using pet gates, or having them stay at a friend’s house during a party, may be necessary. Sometimes, boarding a dog in a kennel may be the safest alternative.

Cleaning products such as disinfectants get a lot of use during the holidays as we spiff up our homes for visitors. Remember, many of these products can be toxic to your pets.

When inviting visitors, make sure they know you have a pet. If these people have allergies, you could help them by using a product such as Allerpet to decrease the dander in the house.

If you are traveling during the holidays, and need to leave your pet(s) at home, start to make accommodations for your pet(s) early. Many boarding facilities fill up very fast. Responsible pet sitters are a good alternative. If they are unfamiliar with your house or pet(s) have them come over and get acquainted before you leave.

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