Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday season in our house.
Just a few weeks after the big mega calorie dinner, we get into Halloween mode and then, almost overnight, we move into overdrive on everything Christmas and other seasonal festivities.
It’s at these times when we are focused on fun that we need to ensure our four legged family members are not forgotten and their safety, and in some cases sanity, is not at risk.
Christmas fills the house with the warm scent of baking and brings back memories of our childhood; the shiny, glittery decorations are a cat’s fantasy; those wrapped gifts are often too much to bear for dogs and cats.
During the upcoming holidays, it’s important to be aware of potential dangers to our animals.
The following safety tips are available on the Ontario SPCA’s website.
Tip 1: Prevent your pet from sneaking sweets
Holiday chocolate sweets are not for pets. Chocolate contains theobromine, which can be poisonous to animals such as dogs, cats and ferrets, depending on the amount ingested. And the less sweet the chocolate, the more toxic it could be.
For example, unsweetened baking chocolate contains almost seven times more theobromine as milk chocolate.
Vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, hyperactivity and increased thirst, urination and heart rate can be seen with the ingestion of as little as a quarter ounce of baking chocolate by a 10-pound dog.
Tip 2: Don’t pass the platter to your pet
Maintain your pet’s regular diet. Just one “special” meal during the holidays may give your dog or cat severe indigestion and diarrhea. This is particularly true for older animals that have more delicate digestive systems and nutritional requirements.
Holiday dinner leftovers also have lurking dangers for pets.
For example, poultry bones can splinter and cause blockages; greasy, spicy and fatty foods can cause stomach upset; spoiled or moldy foods could cause food poisoning, tremors or seizures. And don’t forget to store the garbage safely out of reach from your pet.
Tip 3: Prevent accidental alcohol consumption
Don’t place alcoholic drinks in reach of pets. If your pet ingests alcohol he can become sick and weak and may go into a coma, possibly resulting in death from respiratory failure.
Tip 4: Keep toxic florals out of your pet’s reach
Caution must be used when choosing to decorate your home with holiday florals such as mistletoe and holly berries, which can be potentially toxic to pets.
Should a cat or dog eat mistletoe, they could suffer gastrointestinal upset and cardiovascular problems. Holly can cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea and lethargy if ingested.
Common holiday plants such as poinsettias are considered to be low in toxicity, but they can still cause mild vomiting or nausea if ingested by your pet and can irritate your pet’s mouth. Lilies, appearing in many holiday floral arrangements, can cause kidney failure in cats. Beware of toxic varieties including: Asian, Casa Blanca, Japanese Show, Stargazer and Tiger.
You may want to consider silk or plastic floral arrangements as a safe alternative or placing plants out of reach of your pet.
Tip 5: Take precautions to avoid pet escapes
With guests coming and going during the holidays, take extra care that your pet does not escape outside and become lost.
Cats in particular are prone to hiding and/or bolting when guests, especially a large number of them, visit your home. Dogs should also be carefully supervised as they may become over-excited with all of the holiday celebrations.
One solution is to place your pet in a quiet, safe and comfortable part of the house away from all of the guests, but with access to food, water, litter box and so on. Alternatively, you may wish to use a crate, baby gate or X-pen (a metal exercise pen for dogs that comes in a variety of sizes) for short periods to keep animals from getting underfoot during the festive frenzy while allowing them to be part of the celebration.
Enjoy the holiday season. It's really three months of fun that we all pay for when we see the bills in January and the weight scale on Jan. 1. Let the festivities begin.
Marc Ralsky shares his life and north Toronto home with his wife and three Siberian huskies, and has been around animals and dogs all his life. A true animal welfare enthusiast he recently joined the Ontario SPCA as their new director of community and donor development after a long tenure as a senior director at a national health research foundation. Follow him at @OSPCAMarc