How to keep your pet safe around the holidays

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The holiday season can bring unique risks to your pets. That is why an animal expert says extra planning is necessary to keep them safe.

From colder weather and noisy visitors to rich food and unusual treats, Dr. Suma Rao, a clinical assistant professor at Purdue Veterinary Medicine, says pets face unique challenges in the winter. That is why she suggests the following tips to pet owners.

Provide a quiet space

Rao says the holidays can be stressful too pets because of visitors coming and going along with loud noises and parties.

To reduce their stress level, Rao suggests trying to keep their daily routine as close to normal as possible. If needed, provide a quiet part of the house for your pet so they have a safe retreat from children and well-intended visitors.

Watch out for overindulgence

While you may be stuffing yourself at holiday parties, your pets may be getting too much of a good thing as well. Rao says table scraps, garbage raiding and counter surfing can add up to too much rich food in a pet’s stomach, which may lead to them getting sick.

Rao encourages pet owners to keep their pets on a normal diet, no matter how hard they try to persuade you otherwise.

Mind your decorations

While decorating your house, Rao says you should keep your pet in mind. Dogs, cats, and ferrets have been known to topple ornaments and knickknacks, sometimes even whole Christmas trees.

To prevent a mishap, Rao suggests keeping larger and weightier ornaments close to the floor and valuable ornaments out of reach from curious pets. Rao also says people should keep Christmas trees tethered to a nearby wall just in case.

Watch the flames

The National Fire Protection Association says the top three days for home candle fires are Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Rao says dancing flames and shadows are tantalizing to pets, but can spark a disaster if a candle is toppled by a curious animal.

Rao says pet owners should never leave candles burning unattended and make sure pets are kept a safe distance away from lit candles.

Toss the tinsel

While tinsel is pretty, it can also be dangerous for your pet. Rao says cats and kittens seem to find tinsel especially appealing. However, if eaten, the thin pieces of string or tinsel can cause intestines to bunch up and cut through the intestinal wall.

Be careful with cords

During the holidays, you may have some extra cords lying around. This may cause some issues with some animals, especially puppies. Rao says some animals may chew cords and put themselves at risk of serious burns or electric shock.

Pet owners should be on the lookout for signs that their pet has been electrified. While they may appear normal right after the injury, about 36 hours later they may start showing signs that their lungs are filling with liquid. This includes labored breathing and coughing. Other clues that a pet has been chewing on an electrical cord include a white or seared area on your pet’s tongue or lips.

Know your toxins

The holiday season may include several toxic hazards for your pet. Rao says plants and greenery like holly, ivy, poinsettia, pine, cedar, balsam, amaryllis, and mistletoe can be very toxic for your pet.

The Christmas tree can also present a toxic hazard if you use a live tree with fertilizer. Rao encourages pet owners to visit the ASPCA website for a full list of poisonous plants. If you have an emergency, you can call the animal poison control hotline at 1-888-426-4435.

Plan for your vacation

If you plan on vacationing over the holiday, Rao says you need to keep your pet in mind. Depending on your pet’s personality, and what kind of trip you are taking, Rao says you may want to board your pet or hire a pet sitter.

While making plans, Rao suggests talking with your veterinarian or other pet-owning friends for recommendations for reputable boarders and sitters. Make sure to make reservations well in advance though, as Rao says facilities fill up early for the holidays.

Also, make sure to keep your pet up to date on vaccinations and have your pet collared with identification tags.

By following these tips, Rao says people and pets can enjoy a safe and happy holiday season.

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