Keeping the Joy in the Holidays
Few songs evoke the warm and welcoming feelings of the holidays better then Mel Torme’s “The Christmas Song.” This song also is an excellent tool for teaching pet owners about the unique hazards faced by pets during the holiday season whether we are celebrating Thanksgiving, Hanukkah or Christmas. Let’s start with the opening lines…
“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…” A good example of two hazards: nuts and open flames. Hard shelled nuts can prove dangerous if the hard shell is ingested. Blockages or perforation of the GI tract are possible. Nothing can beat a flickering candle or crackling fireplace for that cozy holiday feeling. But pets and open flames are not a safe combination. Pets who are mesmerized by candles may knock them over causing a house fire or may burn themselves when investigating the flame. Whenever possible, use electric or battery-operated candles and menorahs. Sparks from the fireplace may land on a pet laying too close looking for extra warmth. Always make sure your fire screen is covering the opening to your fireplace.
“Jack Frost nipping at your nose…” Cold weather hazards affect pets as well as people. Salts and de-icers may cause burns on paws and are toxic if ingested. Wash your pet’s paws if they come in contact with these chemicals and do not allow your pet to play in areas that have been de-iced. Hypothermia may also adversely affect pets especially those with short fur and who are unaccustomed to cold weather. Remember, if it’s cold for you, it’s cold for them, too. Bring them inside (let them lay next to the screened fireplace).
“Yule-tide carols being sung by the choir and folks dressed up like Eskimos…” T’is the season for family, friends and carolers at the door. Inform all visitors that there is a pet in the household and to be watchful and careful when entering or leaving the home. Make sure every pet in the household is wearing ID or is microchipped. Instruct visitors not to sneak a little something under the table to your pet. If they brought a gift, ask if it is a food item or anything else your pet may find irresistible and break into and eat.
“Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe…” Reduce the likelihood of GI tract upset by keeping your pet on its regular diet and feeding schedule. Many holiday foods are dangerous or toxic to pets, especially dogs. Turkey and ham bones as well as fatty meats are well known foods to avoid. Keep all foods meant for human consumption out of the reach of your pets.
Mistletoe, Christmas rose, Christmas lilies, and holly can be highly toxic if ingested by your pet. Consider using artificial, silk varieties instead. Poinsettia may cause irritation to the mouth and stomach if ingested but is not specifically toxic.
“Help to make the season bright. Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow will find it hard to sleep tonight…” and so too may our pets. The excitement and stress from the holidays can occur when there are multiple changes in the pet’s routine. Try to keep your pet on its normal schedule and be sure to keep up with the exercise. This will use up excess energy and help your pet sleep better at night.
“They know that Santa’s on his way, he’s loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh…” All those presents gaily wrapped with ribbons and bows may prove too great a temptation for your pet — not to mention the tinsel on trees. Used to help make the tree and presents sparkle, they not ony capture your eye, but that of your pets as well. Curious, playful cats and kittens are particularly fascinated by these materials, often turning them into play toys to be chased, pounced upon, chewed and swallowed. However, when eaten, they can quickly obstruct the GI tract causing a life-threatening condition which requires surgery to correct. Do not allow access to these items when you are unable to supervise, and never allow your pet to chew on or ingest them. To prevent cuts and injures to paws, place glass and other breakable ornaments high on the tree out of tail-wagging range.
“And every mother’s child is going to spy to see if reindeer really know how to fly…” Well we don’t know about flying, but they love carrots and Santa loves his milk and cookies. Whereas carrots are not a toxic food, milk and cookies may cause GI tract upset including vomiting and/or diarrhea. Chocolates are a toxic food for many dogs. In addition, Xylitol, a popular, sugarless sweetner used in sugarless gums and many diet foods is very toxic to dogs. While it appears to be harmless in humans, in dogs it can lead to a severe drop in blood sugar levels resulting in multiple organ failure, coma and death. Keep Santa’s cookies out of pet reach.
“And so, I’m offering this simple phrase to kids from one to ninety-two…” puppies and kittens do not belong under the tree as a Christmas gift and no one regardless of age should be given a pet as a gift unless they have expressly consented to the gift and picked it out themselves
“Although it’s been said many times, many ways, Merry Christmas (Happy Thanksgiving, and Happy Hanukah) to you.” May you and your pets enjoy a safe, healthy, warm and cozy holiday season.