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Healthy Pets: Keep your furry friends safe during the holidays

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By The Staff

While we’re making plans for the holidays, there are several steps pet owners can take to help ensure that the celebrations are pleasant and safe for furry friends.

Beginning with Thanksgiving and continuing with Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas and New Year celebrations, the holidays are a time for giving and sharing. From holiday decorations to seasonal plants and the stress of guests in your home, your plans for the season should include some thoughtful preparation and sharing with your pets.

But there are some things you should not share with your four-legged friends.

Some of the more common holiday hazards include:

Bones: The holiday turkey or chicken will leave a lot of tantalizing bones, but don't feed them to your pet. Beware of steak bones, too. Small bones or bone chips can lodge in the throat, stomach and intestinal tract.

Fat: Those wonderful potato pancakes (latkes) made with hot oil, gravies and poultry skin can cause severe gastrointestinal upset as well.

Holiday plants: Holly and mistletoe are extremely poisonous when eaten. The lovely poinsettia plant may not be truly poisonous, but its milky white sap and leaves can certainly cause severe gastric distress. With so many hybrid varieties available each year, the best approach is to keep the plants out of your pet's reach.

Chocolate: Candy, especially chocolate, is toxic to animals and can cause vomiting, restlessness, heart disturbances and even death. Candy wrappers can also cause health problems. Animals may eat the wrapper, causing obstruction or irritation to the pet's digestive system. Candy and wrappers should be kept out of pets’ reach, and young children should be taught not to share holiday goodies with their pets.

Electrical cords: Holiday lights mean more electrical cords for kittens and puppies to chew. Be sure you have cords secured and out of the way.

Candles: Lighted candles should never be left unattended, and that is even more important if left at kitty's eye level or within puppy's chewing zone. An exuberant tail, a swat of a paw, and candles and hot wax can quickly become disastrous. Anchor candles securely and away from curious faces and feet.

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

Holiday tree: Make sure your tree is well secured. If you have a tree-climbing cat or large dog with a happy tail, anchor the top of the tree to the wall using strong cord or rope. Preservatives often used in the water in a tree stand can cause gastric upsets, so be sure it is inaccessible or not used. Avoid sugar and aspirin additives in the water as well.

Ornaments: Sharp or breakable ornaments, dreidels, and even aluminum 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.

Stress and company: With everyone coming and going, watch out for open doors and frisky pets. Make sure your pets have collars and tags on in case of escape. Ask guests to keep an eye out for pets underfoot and remind them that sometimes your normally friendly dog or cat may be less than willing to deal with enthusiastic children and rooms full of unfamiliar people. Provide a quiet place with a blanket and fresh water for your pets to retreat to when the festivities get too stressful.

Once you know the hazards, a little precaution and prevention will help make the upcoming holidays a happy and safe time for everyone in your home.

This column was written by Sam Lane, DVM, a member of the professional staff at Deer Creek Animal Hospital, with additional information provided by the American Animal Hospital Association. For more information, visit www.dcah.com or call 303-973-4200.