For most of us, the holidays are a time to eat, drink and be merry with good friends and family. Holistic veterinarian and author, Dr. Carol Osborne, DVM., offers pet lovers tips to refresh your pet IQ and offers some helpful hints so the Yuletide traditions are as merry for you as they are for your pets. So lets talk about holiday safety and ypur pets.
Holiday Safety Pet Basics
Be sure your pet is healthy, has his or her ID tags & collar, take a few precautions and Use lots of common sense. Try to decorate your home according to the age, activity level and temperament of your pets and children. If they are young and active homemade expendable ornaments are a great safe family project.
Holidays are hectic for all of us and that means stress for pets. To minimize stress try to keep your pets diet, snacks and routine as close to normal as possible. Be sure your pet has a quiet place to go so he can relax when he’s had enough. This helps avoid behavioral problems especially with children.
Dr. Carol’s TIP: Herbal Stress Remedy: Bach’s 5 Flower Rescue Remedy is a natural mixture of five flowers. Place a few drops in your pet’s mouth, food or water bowl. It is safe and effective to relieve anxiety for you and your pet.
Dr. Carol’s TIP: Don’t Give Pets as Gifts!
House Plants to Avoid with Pets:
- Holiday Plants are actually more of a problem with cats than dogs
- Dr. Carol’s TIP: place plants up out of paw reach or consider safe alternatives like artificial arrangements made from silk for additional holiday safety
- Lilly’s are lovely but many varieties: Tiger, Asian, Japanese Show, Stargazer and CasaBlanca can cause kidney failure in Cats
- Poinsettias are often talked about, but are very overrated. At worst they can cause an upset stomach
- Mistletoe especially the berries are quite toxic. They may lead to an upset stomach and fatal heart problems in dogs and cats.
- Holly can cause vomiting, diarrhea nausea and lethargy
- English Ivy
- Amaryllis can cause vomiting and diarrhea
- Hibiscus can cause diarrhea in pets.
Pet Holiday Safety Tips for Your Christmas Tree
Your Christmas tree presents several hazards for cats, curious kittens and playful puppies. Anchor your tree so it’s secure with 200 pound invisible fishing line. This works well to anchor your tree. Run it from the trunk of your tree to a hook in your wall or ceiling.
- Pine needles are sharp. They easily penetrate pet’s tongues, paws and intestines. The needles are painful and easily lacerate intestines, leading to emergency vet visits. Be sure to clean up well and discard them.
Dr. Carol’s TIPS:
- Remedy to deter pet needle eaters: Fill a spray bottle with a mixture of red pepper sauce and water (50/50) then spritz your tree. It won’t harm your tree. Pets do not care for the smell needless-to-say, the taste is even worse.
- Christmas tree water usually contains pine needles, and if the tree has fertilizers and/or preservatives in it and your pet drinks it, stomach upsets usually occur. Stagnant water is a great breeding ground for bacteria, and if pets drink it, they often become ill with vomiting and/or diarrhea.
- Net Your Tree: Placing a net around your finished holiday tree helps to avoid all kinds of thorny holiday pet issues particularly with cats.
Holiday Safety Tips for Lights, Electric Cords, Candles and Fragrances
- Lights should be UL approved and be sure to turn them off when you’re not home and at night while you’re asleep.
- Electric and Extension Cords are popular chew toys for curious puppies. Hide them in empty wrapping paper tubes and cover them up with cute foil and/or tape them securely to floor. Buy pet proof extension cords, which you can spray with bitter apple or tobacco sauce.
- Candles and Menorah’s are fragrant and enticing to pets. Place them up high out of paw reach. They are a fire hazard and the fumes are toxic to birds. Wagging tails easily knock over candles and may burn your pet or worse yet start a fire.
- Fireplace screens are a good idea especially with cats. Many felines enjoy using your fireplace as a litter box.
Pet Holiday Safety Decoration Tips
- Decorate according to the age, activity level and temperament of your kids and pets this holiday season!
- Use red velvet bows instead of hooks to hang ornaments.
- Ornaments: use non breakable-pet proof, home-made ornaments. It’s safe for pets and fun for the whole family. Try using cardboard, plastic, dried non toxic flowers, fabric, wood and pinecones. Put small breakable ornaments up high on your tree.
- Use two-tone ribbons instead of garland, tinsel, and angel hair, especially with cats as they love it. Cats enjoy nibbling it and once swallowed; this often blocks the intestines and leads to vomiting and a costly emergency visit with abdominal surgery. Vets call this a “linear foreign body” because that’s how your cat’s intestines appear on x-rays after ingesting garland, tinsel and/or angel hair.
- Liquid potpourri, which is usually placed in decorative bowls and simmering pots and sachets are popular during the holidays but dangerous, especially for cats. The pots spill easily if your cat brushes against it. Then when your cat grooms him or herself to remove the potpourri, it can lead to ulceration and damage to your cat’s mouth, skin and eyes. If this occurs, give your cat a bath in warm ivory soap, wrap him or her in a clean, warm towel, offer some warm milk and call your vet. Most cats recover in a few days.
- Keep aluminum foil and cellophane candy wrappers away from your pets. They can cause vomiting and intestinal blockage.
- Batteries should be kept away from your pets, batteries contain corrosives can ulcerate your pets mouth, tongue and intestines if bitten, chewed on or swallowed.
- Dr. Carol’s TIP: No Bones, because they can splinter and lacerate your pets intestines
- Dr. Carol’s TIP: Turkey contains the amino acid tryptophan, which has a calming effect on people and pets. That’s part of the reason why most of us feel a little sleepy after our Thanksgiving feast. If your dog or cat is nervous because of all the festivity, give him a little turkey to calm his nerves.
Healthy Safety Pet Foods
Many of us will overindulge this holiday season, and our waistlines as well as that of our pets will pay the price. There are certain elements of traditional holiday meals that are healthy and as good for you as they can be for your pet.
- Pumpkin is rich in Vitamin A. It is also a good source of fiber. Pumpkin seeds are high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. Those are the good fats. It is low in fat. The problem, however, is pumpkin pie. It is a high-calorie food because it is made with eggs, sugar, evaporated milk, and baked in a high-fat pie crust. Try making a tofu pumpkin pie as a low fat alternative, and you and your pet can both enjoy this tasty treat together!
- Cranberries contain lots of vitamin C as well as fiber and manganese. In addition, they contain an antioxidant that prevents the adhesion of bacteria to the urinary tract. This can prevent urinary tract infections.
- Sweet potatoes contain vitamin C and beta-carotene and potassium. The skin is a great source of fiber and beta-carotene.
- Green beans are a great source of vitamin C, vitamin K, and manganese. They also contain vitamin A, fiber, potassium, folate and iron.
Medications to Avoid with Pets
Keep all prescriptions and over the counter medicines tucked away and out of your pets reach. Remind holiday guests to store their medications safely as well.
During the holidays many vets have limited office hours. It is a good idea to keep the number of a convenient emergency facility posted in a convenient place as well as the number of the Animal Poison Control Center Consultation Services. (1-888-426-4435) (1888-4ANI-HELP)
- Always check with your vet before giving your pet medication. May medications that are safe for you can be very harmful, even deadly to your pet.
- Less than 1 regular strength acetaminophen (325mg) Tylenol can be dangerous to a cat weighing 7 pounds.
- Less than 1 regular strength ibuprofen (200mg) tablet can cause stomach ulceration in a seven pound cat.
- Be sure your pet is healthy as pets, like people are more susceptible to health issues in cold weather.
- Give your pet lots of extra attention this holiday season, so he doesn’t feel like he’s been forgotten and left out of the festivities. Let your pet get into the gift of giving this holiday season by making a donation of food, litter, or toys to your local shelter or favorite charity and put it in your pet’s name.
- Always be prepared and remember the best gift of all is your LOVE!