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How to Keep Your Pet Safe During the Holidays

By Stacy Braslau-Schneck

The holidays are a time for joy, gifts, food and merriment for your entire family, including your dog. It is also a time when there are new dangers and hazards that you must consider in order to keep your pet safe during this festive season.

The Tree
Start with your Christmas tree. When putting up your tree, there are a few things you should remember to make sure that your pup doesn’t get hurt or sick. “Be sure that your Christmas tree is securely anchored so it doesn't tip and fall,” says Dr. Camille DeClementi, senior toxicologist at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. “This will also prevent the tree water—which may contain fertilizers and bacteria that can cause stomach upset—from spilling.”

You should also consider what’s on your tree. Your tree may sparkle and shine but many of the wires, lights and ornaments can be potentially hazardous. Dr. DeClementi explains, “Dogs explore the word with their mouths, so any type of tree ornament should be kept out of reach of your dog.” Placing your ornaments higher on the tree is a good way to decorate safely. Unattended candles or a Menorah pose a threat to your dog, as well, as they can be easily knocked over and can cause a fire.

The House Decorations

Before decorating your home with live plants during the holidays, consider artificial options. “Many people have heard that poinsettias are deadly to pets, but this isn’t true,” says Dr. DeClementi. “However, if ingested, they can cause an upset stomach or vomiting, but life-threatening problems are not expected. When ingested, holly can also cause vomiting and diarrhea, and mistletoe can cause possible digestive upset and, rarely, heart problems.” You can avoid all of these problems by choosing artificial silk or plastic plants or a non-toxic arrangement.

The Christmas Gifts

Since dogs are known to tear toys apart and subsequently swallow the pieces, it is imperative to give the gift of a safe toy. “Stick with chew toys that are basically indestructible, or some pet-safe treats,” suggests Dr. DeClementi. “Rubber toys that can be stuffed with healthy foods or chew treats that are designed to be safely digestible are good stocking stuffers for your furry friends.”

The Food

Holiday celebrations tend to revolve around many foods that can be dangerous if ingested by your pup. For example, chocolate is poisonous to dogs, so make sure to not leave it gift-wrapped under the tree. Your dog can easily smell the chocolate, eat it and get ill. Some other foods that are poisonous include grapes and raisins, macadamia nuts, coffee and tea and the sweetener xylitol.

“You might know what is toxic, but don’t assume that your house guests have that same knowledge,” says Dr. DeClementi. “Tell all of your guests to please not feed your dog any table scraps, and to keep the lids on garbage cans.”

If your pet accidentally ingests a potentially toxic substance, get help right away. Contact your veterinarian or call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 for immediate assistance.

Following these tips will ensure a safe and happy holiday for your and your pet!

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