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The holidays are upon us! I came up with the following tips to help keep every member of your family safe and happy this season.

Guests – Pets can become overexcited, confused, or frightened by holiday guests. Keep pets in a quiet part of the house, and make sure they have a safe retreat from children and other visitors. Keep pets’ beds in a safe place, and be sure that guests know the area is off limits.

Chocolate – This sweet treat is a serious pet-poisoning risk, especially for dogs. Bittersweet and baking chocolate, the kinds found in kitchens during the holidays, have even higher health risks than the average candy bar. If a dog eats chocolate, call a veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center National Hotline immediately: 888-426-4435.

Tinsel – Some pets seem to find shiny tinsel especially appealing. If eaten, the thin pieces can cause the intestines to bunch up and can even cut through the intestinal wall. Either could be fatal.

Electric cords – While my home looks like a scene from the movie Christmas Vacation, light strands, loose wires, and electric cords can be a serious hazard to your pet. Some animals may chew cords and put themselves at risk of serious burns or electric shock. Unplug indoor lights when you are not at home, and monitor your pets around cords.

Noisemakers – Fireworks, horns, bells, and whistles can be extremely frightening to the sensitive ears of pets. Make sure pets are in a safe place away from the noise and that they can’t escape the house or yard. If fireworks are a particular problem around holidays such as New Year’s Eve, talk to your veterinarian about getting some sedatives to help an anxious pet.

Christmas tree – Relax and enjoy this family tradition, but make your tree safer by keeping weighty ornaments close to the floor and valuable ornaments and family heirlooms out of reach of curious mouths, noses, and wagging tails. Keep knickknacks on shelves inaccessible to animals. You may also want to tether your tree to a window frame to protect ferrets or cats that like to climb.

Traveling – If you will be traveling with your pet this season, make sure you have current ID on the pet or, even better, a microchip with up-to-date contact information. Bringing your pets’ beds will also help them relax and be more comfortable in a strange place.

Decorative plants – Some plants and greenery, such as holly, ivy, and mistletoe, can be very tempting but are toxic if a pet eats them. Keep all decorative plants out of reach or out of the home, and watch out for real plants that are poisonous to dogs like Poinsettia, which is often used in Christmas decorations. 

Overeating – While cooking my family’s favorite holiday meals, I am surrounded by three little four-legged friends pleading for me to drop something, anything. Don’t give into the temptation! Stick to a normal diet. Table scraps, garbage raiding, and counter surfing can lead to an upset stomach. Too much rich food (like turkey and sauces) can lead to serious inflammation of the pancreas, which can be life threatening.

New pets – While the holidays are not the best time to bring a new pet into the home, some people still surprise a loved one with a new puppy or kitten on Christmas morning. If this is the case, plan ahead! Puppy- or kitten-proof the area the pet will be in, buy the supplies that the pet will need, and know they need extra care in the beginning. Plan on a few nights of little sleep, and most of all, make sure the recipient really wants a pet.

From my family to yours, have a warm happy holiday season!

-Dr. Weaver

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