As pet parents all over the world look forward to celebrating the holidays, there’s one simple rule of thumb to follow each season – Safety First. Don’t be shy sharing these tips with other pet owners. Responsible pet parents talk-up pet tips and safety guidelines all the time! Enjoy your pet-friendly celebrations and we wish you a very happy holiday all year long!
Plants & Holiday Trees
Whether you are the giver or receiver, many plants are highly toxic and potentially lethal to pets. Choose carefully when buying or displaying plants and if in doubt, another non-toxic gift could be a better choice. If you as a pet parent have received a holiday plant, and are unsure if it’s safe, spread the joy and offer your plant gift to a friend that doesn’t have pets. Prior to the holidays share your concerns about plants as gifts and give your family and friends inexpensive alternatives to add to their gift lists for your family—pet household.
Pine needles, if ingested by pets are hazardous because they can puncture the intestinal tract.
For people that add aspirin to their holiday tree water, this aspirin-laced tree water is highly toxic to pets if they drink it. Also, additives to holiday tree water often contain fertilizers that are also lethal to pets. Stagnant tree water can breed bacteria that are also toxic to pets.
Secure holiday trees and other tall decorative items so they don’t tip over onto pets. A decorative plant hanger with a toggle bolt that is secured into your ceiling can offer peace of mind for these tall home decorating hazards. Clear string or fishing line can be used for an invisible tie-up.
Many decorations contain questionable safety issues for both humans and pets. Snow globes and bubbling lights often contain toxic chemicals that are poisonous to pets.
Electrical cords can be pulled out of wall outlets and injure pets. To prevent pets from chewing on cords consider using an electrical cord cover that wraps around cords that lay on the floor. Unplug all electrical items when you’re not home to prevent fires. Alternative plugs like safety circuit plug outlets with remote controls or on/off switches can offer safety too. These circuit plug outlets shut down the power to decorative holiday lights when they are not in use. These cost effective plugs also save on electricity because they stop “vampire” electricity and save money on your monthly holiday electric bills.
Beware of ornamental items like tinsel, glass bulbs, snow spray/flock, Styrofoam, dried food ornaments, and other similar decorative items. All of these types of pretty-to-look at holiday dangers can be ingested, block the intestinal tract and cause life threatening physical complications that result in holiday pet fatalities.
Candles are a fire hazard if left unattended and can also burn a curious or clumsy pet if they are knocked over. Flameless candles come in many shapes, sizes, colors and even with holiday themes that are all very eye-catching. They even look and feel like real wax candles!
Air fresheners can be toxic to pets if sprayed in the house. The fumes when wet, put a fine mist into the air, with the help of gravity, winds up floating towards the floor and pets can either inhale this mist or it can get into their eyes. Keep pets out of the rooms you plan to spray or don’t use spray freshener at all. Try baking a holiday treat to re-fresh the air in your home instead.
Using a Safety Barrier
There are so many options today to keep pets safe and out of areas that could pose danger. Previous to home safety gates, pet owners had to rely on bubble wrap on the floor, crushed aluminum foil or placing bottles filled with pennies around the house in order to hear a pet that entered a danger zone. For some pet parents a balloon tied to a chair worked wonders until someone stopped by and asked when the party was!
Today there are so many beautiful decorative home barrier gates, fences and play yards. Pet parents can look forward to choosing from a wide variety of safety options.
Walk-over gates are low enough to step over, but high enough to contain a small pet. These low profile gates are pressure mounted to a doorway and keep pets safely out of bedrooms, bathrooms and laundry rooms. Mount a step-over gate in an enclosed hallway, shut your doors and plug your outlets and you have an instant pet-friendly area!
Staircase gates are mounted with screws and toggle bolts to the top and bottom of a staircase and provide the ultimate in staircase safety inside the home. For families with young animals or seniors, these staircase gates are an absolute must to keep their companions from having a tragic accident. Beautiful painted and wood stain designs are available.
Play yards are stand alone gates that open up to a variety of widths and many have a door built in. Play yards can contain pets when company comes for a visit. These wide barriers can also be opened up and used as a temporary wall to section off a living dining area for eating or entertaining. Most come with wall mount brackets that can be purchased separately. Play yards are usually about 30” high and can be as wide as 144”. Many of these barriers can be attached to each other to make a double, triple or more, wide barrier.
Pressure mounted gates come in all sizes, heights and widths to accommodate most doorways or room openings. These are an attractive easy to use and install option for any home.
Freestanding gates also come in a wide variety of choices. These gates can be put up temporarily and taken down when needed. This offers a great option for holiday entertaining.
Wrapping & Unwrapping Presents
Keep pets in another room or use the top of your kitchen table to wrap packages. Scissors can cut a pets feet and can injure their mouth if walked on or picked up. Ribbon, string, small sticky labels and other wrapping items can also be harmful to pets if chewed or swallowed.
Toss out all the wrap, tape and string/ribbons so they don’t clutter the floor. Pets are naturally drawn to investigate new things, and the paper garbage on the floor is an appealing mountain of fun for a pet to rummage through and/or eat. Also small plastic pieces and rubber items are common causes of intestinal blockage and choking for lots of pets. These types of hazardous materials often need to be removed surgically. Keep a bag close by and have everyone open one gift at a time, and throw the trash out as you go.
Don’t Feed the Animals!
During the holidays, your door often becomes a revolving door with guests in and out of your home more than any other time of the year. To keep your pets safe, healthy and happy, it’s important to remind house guests to not feed your pets.
You can set up your next party for success by putting out little custard cups of your pet’s food kibble. Guests can offer tidbits of your companion’s food instead of human table scraps.
Most human foods are off limits to pets because many are toxic and difficult to digest. Grease drippings, left-overs and odds and ends are absolute no-no’s. House guests that are unaware of your pet’s dietary needs should be informed either before they arrive or when they arrive.
Don’t Forget About Your Pets
The holiday entertaining season can get busy and cluttered with a busy schedule. Making time for your pets will be easy if you can keep a daily to-do list. Walking the dog, changing the litter pan or picking up meds are all duties that can be easily forgotten. Next time you’re at the store, pick up a little refrigerator calendar or holiday scratch pad, and start filling in your furry friend’s to-do list.
Cut Down on Stress
Letting your pets enjoy your holiday party might be fun for you, but might not be so fun for them. Long arms of strangers holding holiday delights that smell yummy could send most pets onto their hind legs for a night of begging. Most non-pet people do not appreciate a wide-eyed begging pet and will shoo-shoo them away with, a harsh word, a knee jerk or an arm shove. To avoid having friends and family disappoint you and your pet, keep animals out of the party area—especially when there’s food around. One great option is to take your pets favorite bed, blanket and lovey toys and set them up in their favorite room, maybe a back bedroom, with the lights on, soft music or a slow moving movie. Special guest visitors will enjoy holding or helping you take your pet out, checking on them throughout the evening or day and might even offer to help you feed your pet during their special mealtime. This can be a wonderful way to make your pet feel special, without feeling like you have left them out of your fun holiday event.
Always be prepared for a holiday pet emergency. Post your important emergency numbers on the fridge, by the doors and in your bedroom. Have back-up plans in case you cannot escort your pet to the vet and name someone to be your ER Care Contact. If you feel confident, put someone in back-up command of your party instead. Numbers to post in full view are, your vet, your local 24 hour emergency clinic, ASPCA poison control hotline, your back-up ER person, and instruction on how to finish your meal, put the party on hold or cancel in the event of a pet related health crisis. For pet parents with seniors or baby animals or those that need special attention, be sure to line-up a pet sitter for your evenings or days out. No one should have to spend the holidays alone and that especially goes for the ones that love us the most — Our pets!
With some thoughtful care and helpful tips on your holiday planning, it will be easy to have a happy holiday all through the year! By keeping your pets at the top of your list, you and your family will be sure to plan accordingly and use special pet-friendly precautions during your holiday events. In general people are very happy to help out during the busy times of the year, and many will even offer to accommodate you and your pets needs. Start this holiday year off on the right foot with a little extra pet-friendly communication. If the feedback is positive you’ve done a wonderful job of including your pet in your plans; if not so positive, then become creative and turn the situation to favor you and your pet. We wish A Happy happy holiday to all and to all a snuggly night!
Donald and Sara Hassler are co-authors of the award-winning children’s book, Loving Marley, and reside in Connecticut with Marley and Belle the real-life inspiration for the PugTale Adventures storybooks www.lovingmarley.com. The Hasslers are active members of the press and write exclusive feature articles for several publications. Their columns are also published in Pug Talk Magazine. Donald and Sara and Marley and Belle, write, produce and host their own talk radio show called The Responsible Pet Owner, which airs live on Good Company 14/WILI in Connecticut. Visit them online at www.responsiblepetowner.com.