Most of us consider the winter holidays to be one of the happiest times of the year. But for our four-legged family members, this time of year can be especially dangerous! By taking some extra pet-proofing measures this December, you can ensure your furry friends are just as jolly as the rest of the family.
Holiday Travel Considerations
If you, like many families, are traveling to see loved ones during the holidays, make sure to take a few pet precautions ahead of time. Whether you're bringing them with you or leaving your pet behind, be sure to consider these tips to keep them safe:
- Talk with your vet ahead of time. Your veterinarian can help advise you on whether or not your pet is safe to travel (air travel especially can put some pets at risk). If you decide to board your pet while you travel, double check with your vet that they are up-to-date on all vaccines. If you do decide to travel with your furry friend, you may need a health certificate from your veterinarian (even if you're traveling by car) — exact requirements vary by state.
- Properly restrain pets for car travel. Letting pets roam free throughout the car can be very dangerous. Safely restrain your pets within your car (not in the bed of a truck) by putting them in their crate or by using a secure harness — just make sure they're not within reach of any airbags.
- Don't forget to pack for your pet. If your pet is coming with you on your travels, be sure to pack their food and any medications. Make sure they're wearing a collar that has proper identification with your current contact info in case they happen to get lost in an unfamiliar place. You may also consider bringing a copy of your pet's medical records in case of emergency.
Holiday Pet Dangers
Even if you're in town for the holidays this year, you're not fully in the clear. The holidays bring with them new decorations, food, visitors and more — all things that can lead to dangerous situations for your pet if you're not paying close attention. Consider these potential dangers as you prepare for the holidays:
- Holiday decorations. Curious pets can find all sorts of trouble when it comes to holiday decorations. Christmas trees in particular can be dangerous — especially if you have a cat who may try to climb it. Make sure to secure your tree and keep breakable or food-based ornaments higher up, out of reach of pets. You should also be sure your pets don't drink any water from the base (if you have a live tree) or ingest any evergreen needles, which can both be harmful. Keep other holiday decor — such as tinsel and ribbons — away from cats, who may try to ingest these items. Finally, unplug any decorations that have electrical cords when you're not in the room (you may even consider investing in cord covers or organizers). Pets can chew on these cords, which can cause severe injury.
- Food. While most pet owners already know not to feed "people food" to pets, it's worth a reminder — human food (even small table scraps) can be unhealthy for animals. If you want to give your pet a special holiday treat, buy (or make) them treats that are formulated specifically for them. Make sure human food (including food scraps in the trash) is inaccessible to your pets so they don't ingest dangerous or poisonous foods like chocolate, candy containing Xylitol, nuts, unbaked bread dough and more. Click here to view a full list of foods that can be harmful to pets.
- Alcohol. Alcohol can be poisonous to pets — in fact, even just a single ounce of alcohol could kill a small cat or dog if ingested. Be sure to keep alcoholic drinks out of reach from your pets, as well as other baked goods that could contain alcohol (such as fruit cake).
- Seasonal flowers and plants. Holiday plants are certainly beautiful, but unfortunately, many are toxic to pets. In fact, even non-toxic plants can cause serious blockages for your pet if ingested in large quantities. Holiday plants that can be harmful to pets include azaleas, holly, ivy, mistletoe and poinsettias. Click here to view a comprehensive list of plants that are toxic to cats and dogs.
- Festive pet clothes. We get it: nothing is cuter than seeing your furry companion in a festive holiday sweater. Pet costumes are adorable! However, if your pet doesn't like to dress up, it's best to let them choose for themselves. If you do decide to dress them up, clothing should still allow your pet to move and breathe freely. Don’t buy pet clothes that have any dangling parts that could get caught on something or torn off and swallowed.
Plan Ahead for Emergencies
If the worst does happen and your pet needs emergency medical attention, it's important that you know what to do. Talk to your veterinarian in advance to learn where the closest 24/7 pet clinic is, should you need it. Keep the following phone numbers on hand and call immediately if your pet is harmed or has eaten something dangerous:
- Number for your veterinarian clinic (and for the 24/7 emergency vet, if different)
- Pet Poison Helpline: 855-764-7661
- ASPCA Poison Control Hotline: 888-426-4435
This article first appeared in the December 2022 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.