This month’s blog is contributed by Lauri Julian, Board Member & Chair, Education Committee for the Cheyenne Animal Shelter.

The holidays are upon us and it’s easy to overlook potential dangers to dogs and cats. Keeping our furry family members safe during the holidays can be a difficult task. There are the ornaments, plants, food, presents, lights – and the Christmas tree. Below are some simple steps from the ASPCA and other sources to help keep your pets safe from Thanksgiving through Christmas and into the New Year.

THANKSGIVING is a time for friends, family and holiday feasts—but also a time for possible distress for our animal companions. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

The Turkey: If you give tidbits to your pet, make sure it’s boneless and well-cooked. Raw or undercooked turkey may contain salmonella bacteria. Poultry bones can damage your pet’s digestive tract.

No raw bread dough. When ingested by a dog or cat, the yeast continues to convert the sugars in the dough to carbon dioxide gas and alcohol, resulting in bloated, drunken pets which can become a life-threatening emergency.

Keep table scraps to a minimum. Don’t allow your pets to overindulge, it can cause stomach upset, diarrhea or even worse— pancreatitis. Fatty foods are hard for animals to digest. In fact, it’s best keep pets on their regular diets during the holidays. But if you must share the feast, limit it to small pieces of turkey and vegetables (sweet potato or green beans) and only a taste of mashed potato.

 No pie or other desserts. Chocolate can be harmful for pets, and the artificial sweetener called Xylitol – commonly used in sugarless gum and sugar-free baked goods – can be deadly if consumed by dogs or cats. Xylitol causes a sudden release of insulin in the body that leads to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Symptoms can develop rapidly (within 15-30 mins.) and may include: vomiting, weakness, difficult in walking or standing, lethargy, tremors, and seizures, leading to liver failure or even death. If your pet is showing these symptoms, get veterinary help ASAP!

 Secure or keep the trash can away from pets.  A turkey carcass and other food in a trash container could be harmful or even deadly to your family pet.

Another tip: Give your pets an early meal, so they are less tempted to beg for food.

Quick action can save lives. If you think your pet has eaten something toxic, call your veterinarian or emergency vet immediately. You may also call the ASPCA Poison Hotline: 888-426-4435. Signs of pet distress include: sudden changes in behavior, depression, pain, vomiting, or diarrhea. For more information on foods that are toxic to pets, visit the ASPCA’s page.

 Prevent the great escape. While you’re welcoming hungry guests and collecting coats, a four-legged family member can make a break for it – out the door – and become lost. If you know your dog is a door dasher, put him/her in another room with fresh water, toys, and a comfortable place to sleep.

Thanksgiving weekend can be a great time to start decorating for CHRISTMAS. Here are some things to consider:

Be Careful with Seasonal Plants. Holly, mistletoe, and poinsettia plants are poisonous to dogs and cats. If you use these plants to decorate your home, they should be kept in an area your pet can’t reach. Or, consider using artificial plants. The ASPCA offers lists of plants that are toxic to both dogs and cats, but to be safe, keep your pets away from all plants and table decorations.

The Christmas tree: Securely anchor your Christmas tree so it doesn’t tip and fall, causing possible injury to your pet. This will also prevent the tree water, which may contain fertilizers, from spilling. Stagnant tree water is a breeding ground for bacteria, and you should not let your pet drink from the tree water.  Keep the area free and clear of pine needles. While they may not seem dangerous, the needles can puncture your pet’s intestines if ingested.

To keep your cat from attempting to jump on the tree, you can place aluminum foil, a plastic drink bottle filled with pennies, or anything else that creates noise on the tree’s bottom limbs to warn you of an impending tree disaster.

Do not put lights on the tree’s lower branches. Not only can your pet get tangled up in the lights, they are a burning hazard. Additionally, your dog or cat may inadvertently get shocked by biting through the wire.

Ornaments need to be kept out of reach, too. In addition to being a choking and intestinal blockage hazard, shards from broken ornaments may injure paws, mouths, or other parts of the body.

To prevent accidental electrocutions, any exposed indoor or outdoor wires should be taped to the wall or the sides of the house.

Gift wrapping hazards: Be sure to keep your pet away from wrapping paper, string, plastic, or cloth which could cause intestinal blockages. Scissors are another hazard, and they should be kept off floors or low tables.

 When tinsel is not so pretty. Kitties love this sparkly, light-catching “toy” that’s easy to bat around and carry in their mouths. But if it’s swallowed, it can lead to an obstructed digestive tract, severe vomiting, dehydration and possible surgery. It’s best to brighten your boughs with something other than tinsel.

Holiday Glow: Don’t leave lighted candles unattended. Pets may burn themselves or cause a fire if they knock candles over. Be sure to use appropriate candle holders, placed on a stable surface and out of reach of pets — there’s no telling what a wagging tail may do. And if you leave the room, put the candle out!

Wired: Keep wires, batteries and glass or plastic ornaments out of paws’ reach. A wire can deliver a potentially lethal electrical shock and a punctured battery can cause burns to the mouth and esophagus. Extension cords and holiday lights, if chewed, can cause mouth and throat burns.

PRECAUTIONS FOR PARTIES

Visitors can upset your pets; create a safe haven. Some pets are shy or excitable around new people or crowds, and holidays can bring many visitors at once and higher-than-usual noise and activity levels. Make sure there is a safe and quiet space (a room or crate) where your dog or cat will feel comfortable. This will reduce the emotional stress on your pet and protect your guests from possible injury.

If you have exotic pets, remember that some people are uncomfortable around them and that these pets may be more easily stressed by the festivities. Keep exotic pets safely away from the hubbub of the holiday.

Leave a note for guests. Leave a festive note on the food table to remind guests not to share holiday treats with your pets. Drinking cups (especially those filled with alcohol) and plates should be kept out of reach.

Careful with Cocktails: Be sure to place your unattended alcoholic drinks where pets cannot get to them. If ingested, your pet could become weak, ill and may even go into a coma, possibly resulting in death from respiratory failure.

Watch the exits. Even if your pets are comfortable around guests, make sure you watch them closely, especially when people are entering or leaving your home. Notify your neighbors that you will be having a party and to call you right away if they see one of your pets outside unattended.

Identification tags and microchips reunite families. Make sure your pet has proper ID with your current contact information. That way, if they do sneak out, they’re more likely to be returned to you. If your pet isn’t already microchipped, the Shelter offers this service at minimal cost.

The garage is not the best retreat. Antifreeze, even in very small amounts, can cause rapid kidney failure in dogs and cats. It’s best to keep pets out of the garage year round, but especially during the colder months when cars leak these hazardous fluids.

NEW YEAR’S NOISE: As you count down to the new year, please keep in mind that strings of thrown confetti can get lodged in a cat’s intestines, if ingested, perhaps necessitating surgery. Noisy poppers can terrify pets and cause possible damage to sensitive ears. And remember that many pets are also scared of fireworks, so be sure to secure them in a safe, escape-proof area as midnight approaches.

Being prepared for these potential hazards may help your furry family members stay safe and sound through the holidays and will help you keep your peace of mind.

We wish you very happy and safe holidays, we appreciate all you do for the animals!