Here are 12 safety tips to insure your pets enjoy a safe and healthy holiday season:
12) Candles Burn: Curiosity can kill a cat. If a candle is knocked over, a house fire may start. A pet can get singed brushing against a candle. Scented candles can be dangerous for birds.
10) Stress is Contagious: So, you're behind on your holiday shopping, you have two parties to attend this week, out-of-town guests just arrived and the boss expects you to finish a project by Christmas. You don't have a minute to spare, even for your best friend with four legs or feathers. Home routines are disrupted. The result: stressed out pets.
9) Beware Where You Kiss: Hanging mistletoe is fine as long as it's out of your dog or cat's reach. Fresh mistletoe is toxic.
8) Deck the Halls: We all suffer from the 'grandma syndrome,' expressing love by feeding our pets treats. The truth is, that a little tidbit of turkey, chicken or ham, or simple slices of carrot or apple, won't harm your pet. The problem arises when you overdo it. After all, a 150-pound person scarfing five slices of turkey meat is no big deal, and a German shepherd might be able to eat that much without stomach upset. However, a diminutive dog, like a Yorkshire terrier, will pay a price.
Also, be aware that several guests might be simultaneously sneaking food to your pets when you're not looking. Not only are they teaching your pets to beg, but added together, the combined treats can be too much of a good thing. Excess fat can lead to dangerous pancreatitis. Bones can splinter and get lodged in a pet's throat, which can be life-threatening.
7) Holiday Treats to Die For: If there are pets around, don's leave out Aunt Sally's box of chocolates for Santa. A chemical in chocolate called theobromine can make dogs, cats, or birds very ill. Theobromine is especially prevalent in cooking chocolate or dark chocolate. Raw onion is bad for cats, and avocado can make birds sick, so keep a watchful eye over the guacamole!
6) Tinsel Temptation: Cats love playing with sparkly decorations, and they can knock down and entire Christmas tree as they pull on tinsel or dangling ornaments. Trailing ribbons on the presents underneath are also tempting. Secure your tree carefully so cats and dogs don't become so fascinated by the trimmings that they make a meal of them - keeping veterinarians in surgery on Christmas Day.
5) Keep Cats Off: A small lattice-work fence around the base of your tree will prevent cats from climbing up the branches.
4) No Sugar Plums in the Water: Don't add chemical preservatives or anything else to the water at the base of your tree. Homemade family recipes include bizarre additives, such as chicken soup, Vitamin C, dog urine (yuck!), bleach, even birth control pills. Aside from making the water for your tree dangerous for pets to drink, experts say there's nothing you can add that will really make the tree last longer. A tree-skirt will help block pets from reaching this water.
3) Good Housekeeping: Some pets, especially puppies and kittens, like to munch on fallen Christmas tree needles. They can choke on them or suffer serious tummy upset. Birds can perch on plastic trees, but they shouldn't be allowed to munch on the plastic needles.
2) Avoid Prickly Christmas Trees: When choosing a tree, consider one with pet-friendly pliable needles, such as a Douglas fir or white pine. These needles won't stick in your pet's paws. (They're also easier to vacuum up.)
1) Pets Deserve Presents, Too: As you gather to open presents, welcome all members of the family, including those with fur and feathers.
(Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is http://www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.)