Keep Your Dog Safe During The Holidays!
Like many people, you probably consider your dog to be an important member of your family, so of course you want to include him in your holiday festivities. And since Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner, now’s the time to think about what you can do to keep your dog safe during the holidays. As you are planning your holiday parties, preparing your family dinners, and setting out the holiday decorations and Christmas tree, there are suddenly a lot of potential safety hazards presented to your dog. So with a little planning and prevention, you can help keep your dog safe during the holidays.
One of the best parts about the holidays is all the wonderful food! The festivities usually include a delicious turkey or tender roast beef with several accompanying side dishes, a delightful variety of chocolates and nuts, and of course, all the rich flavorful deserts. These holiday foods are a popular part of the celebrations, but in order to keep your dog safe during the holidays you’ll need to make sure that your dog stays away from the tempting foods and beverages. Here are a few foods that can present problems:
Bones, especially turkey bones, are never a good snack for your dog. Dogs can choke on the sharp, brittle edges, or the bones can become lodged or splinter in the digestive tract. Fat trimmings are also dangerous to your dog as they could cause pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).
Chocolate and cocoa contain theobromine, which is a chemical that is highly toxic to dogs. Ingestion in small amounts can cause vomiting and diarrhea, and in large amounts it can cause seizures and can also be fatal. Baking chocolate is especially dangerous to dogs, so keep all chocolates stored safely away in a place that is well out of reach of your dog.
Many cookies and candies contain certain nuts that should not be given to dogs. Almonds, walnuts and pistachios can cause stomach upset or can become lodged in your dog’s throat. Other nuts, such as macadamia nuts, can be toxic to dogs, causing seizures or other neurological problems.
Sugarless cookies and sugarless candies usually contain xylitol, which is a sweetener that is highly toxic to dogs. It can cause a life-threatening drop in blood sugar or liver failure, so keep your dog safe during the holidays and be careful that he does not have access to sugarless treats.
If you decide to serve beverages made with alcohol, make sure you and your guests place unattended alcoholic drinks where your dog cannot reach them. Rum-soaked fruitcake and other deserts made with alcohol can also be harmful to dogs if ingested.
When clearing the table, be sure that all leftovers are safely put away in the refrigerator or stored in pet-proof containers, and the garbage can is safely covered and secured. If possible, take the leftover turkey bones and other hazardous foods to outdoor garbage bins placed in a location that your dog cannot reach. Also, let your guests know in advance the house rules about not feeding table scraps or leftovers to your dog.
Holiday plants may be beautiful to look at, but one easy way to keep your dog safe during the holidays is to avoid bringing plants into your home that can make your dog sick. Mistletoe, holly, poinsettias and lilies might fill your home with bright, festive colors, but they can lead to serious health problems (and even death) in dogs. It’s best to keep these holiday plants out of the household and decorate instead with plants and flowers that are safe for dogs.
Christmas Trees and Decorations
We all love the look and smell of fresh Christmas trees, but there are some precautions you should take when bringing a live or artificial Christmas tree into your home. If you have a live Christmas tree, avoid adding fertilizer or aspirin to the water (both are dangerous to your dog) and keep your dog away from stagnant water that’s in the reservoir, as it could contain bacteria that will make him sick. Flocking (the artificial snow that is sometimes put on live trees) can be harmful to your dog if consumed, so if you decide to have a live Christmas tree, select one that does not have “snow” already on it.
Some dogs unfortunately like to chew on electrical cords which can lead to electrical shock, burns or possible death. So check your holiday lights frequently for any signs of chewing or fraying and turn the lights off and unplug them whenever you are not home.
Dangling Christmas ornaments, twinkling icicles and shiny garlands are all traditional decorations that may look pretty, but they can be a source of danger to your curious dog. Tinsel itself is not toxic, but it’s a huge temptation (especially to cats) and can easily and quickly cause intestinal blockage that could require surgery. When decorating your tree with holiday lights, keep the lights at the top of the tree and avoid putting lights on the lower tree branches, as they can get hot and burn your dog. Also, avoid using glass ornaments which can break easily and cut your dog’s mouth or paws. Stay away from edible decorations such as cranberry or popcorn strings – these beautiful strands will be far too tempting for your dog to ignore!
Also, make sure to avoid imported snow globes, which have recently been found to contain ethylene glycol (antifreeze) that is highly toxic to dogs. Also avoid using bubble lights on your tree, as they contain a dangerous chemical called methylene chloride (this is what causes the bubbles when heated).
Part of the fun of Christmas is to place the beautifully wrapped gifts under the tree, ornately decorated with lots of colorful bows and ribbons, but your curious companion may decide these shiny objects of temptation are great “chew toys”, which could pose a choking hazard or end up obstructing the intestines.
So when it comes to Christmas trees and decorations, the best way to keep your dog safe during the holidays is to keep your tree, decorations and gifts in a room that you can close off from your dog when you’re not around to supervise, or if that’s not possible, then at least keep a screen or fence around your Christmas tree to help prevent him from accessing the area.
The holidays can be stressful to your dog, especially if you are hosting a dinner party with lots of guests. There is surely going to be an increase in activity and noise, so make sure your dog is wearing his current ID tag and is micro-chipped just in case someone accidentally leaves the front door open and he gets out. Ideally, you should set aside a room just for your dog, where he can have his own place to relax and feel safe. In his room, include a big bowl of water and food, his favorite bed with some cozy blankets and of course his favorite toys and a few treats. You can also turn on some soft background music to help mask the sounds of the doorbell, holiday guests, etc.
So relax and enjoy the festivities of the holidays knowing that you’re taking good care of your dog. Once you know the hazards, a little care and precaution will go a long way to make the holidays a safe and happy time for everyone. And remember, if you think your dog has come in contact with something poisonous, contact your veterinarian immediately or call the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-800-213-6680.