December 14, 2013

How to make holidays safe for pets

Ornaments on the Christmas tree, popcorn and cranberry strings and, of course, sugary treats.

Ornaments on the Christmas tree, popcorn and cranberry strings and, of course, sugary treats.

Sounds like a festive holiday celebration – for people. But for pets?

Ornaments are treats that shouldn’t be eaten, sugar leads to being sick, and popcorn strings could be a quick way to tip over a Christmas tree.

“My dog did that one year,” said Crystal Scott, veterinarian at Kindness Animal Hospital in Grand Forks, N.D. Her dog had tried to eat popcorn and cranberries off the tree, only to end up with the whole tree falling on top of him.

These holiday hazards don’t mean pet owners can’t celebrate – they just need to take precautions.

With the holidays comes the cold, and “the worst thing a pet can get into in the winter is antifreeze,” Scott said. “If you don’t catch it in the first 24 hours (after a pet drinks antifreeze) it can cause kidney failure.”

Unfortunately, antifreeze tastes sweet to pets, Scott said. Sometimes pet owners will be working in their garage and not notice their dog drink spilled antifreeze, she said.

“Luckily, most people who own pets know about antifreeze, but we still get one from time to time,” she said.

Cold temps

The winter weather can also pose a chilly threat to pets, Scott said.

She advises anyone who keeps their pet outside to have a wind-proof shelter with bedding to help keep the pet warm.

“Some people have heated shelters for their pets,” she said. If that’s not the case, she suggests making sure the shelter is small enough so that the pet’s body heat can warm it.

“Shorter-hair dogs are more susceptible to the cold,” Scott added.

Jean Youshefski, community service officer at the Grand Forks Police Department, said when she is called to check on a pet that has been left outside, she reminds the owners that they should have a shelter for the pet and provide water, and she encourages them to bring the pet inside when temperatures are below zero.

Bad treats

Holiday festivities can also be dangerous to pets if their owners aren’t careful.

Scott suggests that pet owners watch electrical cords when hanging Christmas lights, because pets could pull or chew the cords.

Holiday foods can make pets sick, so chocolate and other sweets shouldn’t be fed to pets, she said.

And pet owners shouldn’t give ham or turkey bones to pets, Scott said. “We always worry about bones splintering.”

She also suggested keeping Christmas tree ornaments out of the reach of pets.

“We do see a lot of dogs that think the ornaments are treats,” Scott said.

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