With trees, decorations, guests and treats, the holidays can be an exciting time for pets. But it can also be a unsafe time if owners are not attentive to some holiday dangers.
It is not uncommon for Jessica Smith, a veterinarian at Green Meadow Veterinary Hospital, to see sick animals around the holidays because they ingested one of the many festive temptations.
The Christmas Tree
JASMINE ROGERS The Marietta Times
Anna Simmons, of Marietta, and pups Biscuit and Abbey play in front of the Christmas tree at Simmons’ home Monday.
The shiny objects and twinkling lights on the Christmas tree are fascinating to curious pets, said Smith.
"Ornaments can always be a danger. They are shiny and they are hanging there. Dogs will bite and if they are glass, you can have cuts in the mouth and irritation," she said.
Marietta resident Anna Simmons, 22, has three larger dogs who mostly ignore tree ornaments unless one gets knocked to the floor.
Tips for pet safety
- Do not use tinsel on the tree.
- Secure ornaments or keep them out of reach.
- Cover water basin on live trees.
- Keep human foods off limits, especially ham, chocolate, nuts and candy.
- Keep holiday plants out of reach.
- Keep candles, and oil and tart warmers out of reach.
- Make sure pets do not chew on electric cords.
- Never wrap a pet up as a present.
- Give outdoor pets enough straw.
- Check outdoor water regularly so it does not freeze.
- Keep pets out of common garage items such as anti-freeze.
- Clean pets' paws after outdoor walks.
Source: Times research.
"I put ornaments higher that they might be able to knock off so they don't just smack it off with their tails," she said.
Cats are particularly fond of tinsel, which will cause serious, even life-threatening, stomach problems, Smith said.
"Animals will exhibit vomiting and diarrhea or extreme lethargy and they won't want to eat anything. Sometimes there will still be tinsel in the mouth," she said.
Having a live tree can also cause problems, said Steve Herron, manager of the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley.
"The dog will often drink out of the base. That's really not good for dogs because of the sap and things that run down into it," he said.
It is often hard for guests to resist the begging eyes of a cute animal, but it is important to set firm guidelines with household guests about what they can and can not feed to pets, said Herron.
Things like pork are too salty and too fatty to be served to pets, added Smith.
"Fatty meats can cause pancreatitis and some dogs don't recover from it. It can be lethal," she said.
Anything with nuts should be avoided because nuts can cause allergic reactions and obstructions, said Smith.
Also keep portion size in control, said Herron.
"If you look at some of the studies, three or four french fries to a dog is like a large fry to us. And dogs don't stop themselves when it comes to table scraps. They keep eating usually until they make themselves sick," he said.
Other indoor hazards
Like tinsel, ribbons and bows can get wrapped around a pet's tongue and get entangled in their intestinal track, said Smith.
People should also keep an eye on extension cords, which tend to be used more frequently around the holidays, she said.
"Puppies, kittens, and rabbits like to chew on extension cords. You can have the ingestion, choking hazards, and it can get caught around their necks," said Smith.
Plants like poinsettias, though not necessarily lethal, should be kept well out of the reach of pets, said Smith.
"The four most common things are pine needles, holly, mistletoes and poinsettias. Not necessarily all of them are toxic, but they will all cause irritation and problems," she said.
Never induce vomiting if a pet has eaten pine needles, because it will simply cause more irritation, noted Smith.
Finally, Smith warned that pet owners should closely watch scent items, like candles, and oil warmers.
"We've had cats come in with singed whiskers or was on their face or tails," she said.
With the temperatures dropping, pet owners should be vigilant about outside pets. This includes making sure they have shelter and plenty of straw, said Herron.
"You should literally pack their box with straw because they will get in there and burrow," he said.
At temperatures less than 25 degrees, Herron recommends bringing even outdoor pets into a garage or basement, but only after ensuring products like anti-freeze are out of reach.
Inside dogs that are going out for walks and bathroom breaks should also be given special care, said Deputy Kelly McGilton, Washington County dog warden.
Small dogs are more likely to graze the snowy ground with their stomachs, and therefore their body temperatures will drop more rapidly, she said.
"Dogs react to the cold the same way humans do. They shiver and get a little sluggish," said McGilton.
Pets paws should also be gently cleansed after outdoor walks.
"A lot of people salt their sidewalks. That salt can burn the pads of your dog's feet and be an irritant on their skin," she said.
Officials also advised keeping an emergency vet number on hand.
Green Meadows' emergency number is 373-9480. In Parkersburg, A-VET on Seventh Street can be reached at (304) 428-8387.