The holidays can be stressful and even dangerous for pets, especially those new to your home. Even those of us who’ve had dogs and cats for years can unintentionally expose them to hazardous situations. While most pets come through the holidays just fine, and we know our animals’ behavior well enough to know what particular hazards to avoid, it’s always good to be informed.
A recent perusal of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s website confirmed some things I knew, but also reminded me of things I’d forgotten, and mentioned a few that were new to me. Take a look at their list of potential dangers .
Many of the cautions center around food. Here's a list of common foods that are hazardous to dogs and cats (including some that may surprise you). You can also download a free app, APCC, which gives easy-to-access information on poisons specific to species. It’s hard to resist giving your dogs or cats bits of that tasty turkey or stuffing, but human foods should generally be avoided. A better idea is to be sure to have some of their favorite treats on hand!
Other common holiday dangers involve Christmas trees They should be secured to the wall or ceiling if your pets are prone to climb or zoom into them. Another hazard is ornaments, including edible or easily broken ones. Additives to Christmas tree water that prolong freshness can also be dangerous to pets who might drink the water! Ornamental plants, candles, potpourri, tinsel, and more should also be kept out of the reach of pets.
The AVMA website has many other suggestions for keeping pets calm and comfortable during this season or any time there are disruptions to their routine (from the home page, do a search on 'holiday safety' and you'll find several articles).
Even so, they fail to mention what has been one of the biggest holiday stressors in our neighborhoods for many pets: fireworks. The constant yet unpredictable loud noises for several weeks leading up to (and after) New Year’s Eve can be very difficult—more so than the planned, limited public displays. My dogs’ reactions have ranged from being indifferent to uneasy to downright terrified, and it was not clear until their first fireworks season what their reactions would be. For the one who was terrified, we tried everything from loud classical music to a thunder shirt to calming food supplements that my vet said had shown good results. Nothing helped. He finally prescribed human anti-anxiety medication, and while thankfully that mitigated my dog’s terror, he was still very restless and unhappy.
As always, make sure that each pet is microchipped (free at ACS with an appointment), make sure that the registration information is current, and make sure that your pet is wearing a collar with ID information at all times. An animal, especially one that is stressed by unusual levels of noise or activity, can run out a door or gate very quickly! Cats will often hide in a safe place nearby when frightened, but dogs are more likely to just take off and run.
All of this slightly scary information can help prevent holiday mishaps so tohat you and your pets can enjoy the season safely. The companionship of animals is a wonderful gift we give ourselves year round!
Nancy Diehl serves on the board and is a co-founder of the Cannoli Fund, a local non-profit that cares for dogs and cats in need of help in the King William and Lavaca neighborhoods.