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December 7, 2004 > Christmas and Your Critters

Christmas and Your Critters

by Nancy Lyon

ByAs we celebrate many holiday traditions around this time of year, Christmas is probably the most hazardous to our animal family members. These are joyous and busy times, yet many of the festive decorations and tantalizing foods we enjoy are a danger to our "pets." By considering this wonderful occasion from the perspective of your companion animal's safety, it will help you to protect them from painful and potentially serious accidents and you from costly veterinary bills.

The following tips should help them get through the season safely.

The Christmas Tree: A sure attraction for cats and other animals. Make certain your tree is well secured. If your cat is a tree-climbing athlete or your large dog has a happy tail, it's wise to anchor the top of the tree to the wall, using strong cord or rope.

The preservatives often used in the water in a tree stand can cause gastric upsets. Avoid using sugar and aspirin (poisonous to cats) and commercial additives in the water.

Pine needles: Check around holiday trees and boughs as frequently. Ingested pine needles can puncture your pet's intestines if sharp enough.

Holiday plants: Toxins abound in the flourish of the holidays - beware! Poinsettias, mistletoe, holly and Christmas roses can all be toxic. The best advice with holiday plants is to keep them away from curious mouths. Don't expect your pet to instinctively know which ones are harmful.

Fatty foods and other tempting treats: Just as with you and me, Fluffy and Rover are going to be attracted to holiday foods that may not benefit their health and well-being. No matter how good they have been this year, fatty foods can spell danger. Holiday binges can cause problems ranging from simple indigestion or a touch of diarrhea to potentially life-threatening pancreatitis. Foods that are safe for humans, such as chocolate that can be deadly to dogs, are more accessible to your animal during the holidays so be aware of the hazard. Watch the foil wrapping in which tasty food has been cooked; to some dogs this is just another item on the holiday menu.

Electrical cords: Sparkling holiday lights mean more electrical cords for kittens, puppies, birds and house rabbits to chew. Be sure you have cords secured and out of the way.

Ornaments: Sharp or breakable ornaments and even aluminium foil should be kept out of reach. String objects, especially tinsel and ribbons, are to be safeguarded at all costs. They are thin and sharp and can wrap around intestines or ball up in the stomach. Never decorate with tempting edible ornaments as they may contain toxic paints or varnishes.
Never leave your animal friend alone for any length of time where holiday decorations may offer them "recreational opportunities."

Stress: With everyone coming and going, watch out for open doors and sneaky pets. Make sure your animal friends have collars and tags on in case of escape. Ask guests to keep an eye out for animals underfoot, and remind them that sometimes your normally friendly dog or cat may be less than willing or able to deal with enthusiastic children and unfamiliar people. Provide a special quiet place with a familiar blanket and fresh water for them to retreat to when the festivities get too exciting. Don' forget them in the activity of the celebration, if they appear stressed for any reason, remove them to an "off-limits" sanctuary.

The Fantasy of Animals as Gifts
Animals coming into a new family and environment need the transition to be calm and safe. For all the reasons previously mentioned and more, the holidays are not that time.

It may be tempting to want to give a cute little puppy, kitten or other animal as a holiday present but it is never a good idea or in the best interests of all concerned. However well intentioned, giving a living creature as a gift is unwise

Bringing a new animal member into the family requires that the guardian make an informed and lifetime commitment before the fact. It is also very likely that someone who is ready to take on the responsibility of an animal will want to be part of choosing their own lifetime friend.

OHS suggests as an alternative to directly giving an animal as a present, that instead you make up a gift basket containing all the essentials. Suggestions for the perfect gift basket would include books on specific animal care, leashes or collars, water and food bowls, safe toys and treats, a gift certificate for obedience or puppy socialization classes, and if children are the recipients, a stuffed toy representing their new friend.

And add the Gift of Life -a certificate for a free adoption from your local animal shelter -- on you.

Happy Holidays!

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