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Pet-Safe Holidays

Tips to Keep Them Merry and Safe Holidays promise joy and celebration, but the festivities can also lead to stress and anxiety for people and pets. It is important to remember that visiting strangers, a tree,

Tips to Keep Them Merry and Safe

Holidays promise joy and celebration, but the festivities can also lead to stress and anxiety for people and pets. It is important to remember that visiting strangers, a tree, shiny ornaments, gifts to sniff and food to beg for can incur danger for pets.

 

Maintain Calm      

Christina Chambreau, a homeopathic veterinarian, author and educator in Sparks, Maryland, suggests that petting a dog or cat several times a day can lower stress levels and instill a sense of normalcy. “Flower essences like Bach’s Rescue Remedy help attain calm,” she says. Add it to a pet’s water bowl in the days before a party or drop it directly onto the tongue if unexpected guests arrive. All-natural ingredients make daily use safe for pets and humans.

 

Avoid Bad Foods                            

“Fatty dishes are a problem, from oily potato pancakes to rich gravies for the turkey,” says Ann Hohenhaus, a veterinarian at the Animal Medical Center, in New York City. “Spilled food, unguarded pans and forgotten eggnog or liquor put animals at risk for severe gastrointestinal upset.”

Other common holiday fare can also pose a significant danger for pets:

*Chocolate—especially dark chocolate and dry cocoa powder—can cause seizures and heart arrhythmia.

*Onions, often used in dressing, can cause anemia in pets.

*Raw, yeasty bread dough expands when ingested, potentially causing bloat, a deadly twisting of the stomach.

*Raisins and grapes in desserts, cookies and fruitcakes can cause kidney failure in dogs.

*Nutmeg is toxic for pets.

The trash can itself contains numerous hazards for furry family members. The string that binds roasted meats is tempting, and may require surgery to remove if ingested. Trimmed fat can mean pancreatitis. Swallowed bones pose a dire threat to the entire digestive tract.

 

Provide Good Foods

Naked foods are best. Pets don’t need brown sugar, marshmallows, butter, salt or gravy to appreciate a treat.

“Unless there’s a special diet, share skinless turkey breast, sweet potatoes and green beans,” says Dana Humphrey, aka The Pet Lady, in New York City. “There’s always a friend or relative who thinks one taste won’t hurt. Turkey or sweet potato jerky and homemade treats let guests dole out risk-free bites.”

 

Pet-Wise Tree and Candles

Preservatives that keep the evergreen tree fresh can turn tree water into a drinking hazard for pets. Mesh netting or screen wire allows the addition of fresh water, but prevents pets from quenching their thirst.

Tinsel, garland and ribbon bits are easy to swallow, glass ornaments can cut and tree needles aren’t digestible. Small dreidels become choking hazards, so play while the dog sleeps and put toys away when done.

For safety, add edibles to the stockings at the last minute. Keep light cords out of sight and unplug them when not in supervised use to preempt chewing. Carefully monitor lit candles: A wagging tail or leaping cat can knock them over and start a fire. Update holiday candles with rechargeable, battery-operated versions for a pet-safe holiday glow.

Pet parents everywhere employ creative strategies to ensure maximum mirth and safety during the holidays. Mystery writer Livia Washburn Reasoner opted for a tabletop tree in her Azle, Texas, home, “because our rescued Chihuahuas, Nora and Nicki, peed on the tree skirt.” (other quoted sources have their occupations cited)

In Festus, Missouri, retired school bus driver Darlene Drury suggests a baby’s recycled playpen or a dog’s exercise pen can separate pets from holiday trees.

Patricia Fry, author of the Klepto Cat mysteries, in Ojai, California, decorates the lower branches of her tree with unbreakable ornaments and puts more fragile ornaments out of her cats’ reach.

 

Other Options

If a large party is planned, a guest is allergic or many children will be present, consider boarding a pet. “Slipping out the door as guests arrive is a hazard,” says Veterinarian Carol Osborne, owner of the Chagrin Falls Pet Clinic, in Ohio. “If your pet is very young, very old, pregnant, aggressive and/or suffers with a chronic disease, consider personal pet sitters, kennels, pet hotels and doggie spas to ensure a joyous holiday.”

Pet-proof the house by getting down to the pet’s level and make a family schedule to take turns keeping track of four-footed friends. Then the whole family, pets included, can enjoy the season worry-free.

 

Connect with Sandra Murphy at StLouisFreelanceWriter@mindspring.com.

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