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Thursday, December 12, 2019

Tis the Season to Protect Your Pets

By Catherine Powell

Image courtesy Pixabay
If you’re like me, you find it hard to get into the Christmas spirit when the neighbors decorate their palm trees with lights and tinsel.  But when you think about it, that’s undoubtedly what your pets feel like when you start decking the halls for the holidays.  Whether you realize it or not, when you  break out the Christmas lights, the ornaments,  and other holiday paraphernalia, your pets don’t know what to make of it.  Even worse is when they start treating the tree and all its trimmings like a tall green version of Disney World.  To keep you from having to add the veterinarian to your list this holiday, I’ve come up with a short list of what you need to do to keep your pets safe until the decorations are back in the attic.

1.      Out of their tree – Dogs and cats are drawn to both live and artificial trees.  When it comes to live trees, the smell of pine, not to mention the water bowl at the tree’s base offer an incentive that’s hard to resist.  Even if you have an artificial tree, your dog or cat will wonder how it came to sprout suddenly in your living room or den.  Cats treat indoor trees like a giant scratching post.  That is, if they first don’t climb to the top of it.  Dogs are generally more interested in checking out the ornaments and the twinkling lights.  The way a dog checks things out is usually by putting them in their mouth.  This can result in a toppled tree, or worse, your dog winding up choking on an ornament or cutting its mouth.  The solution is to make sure that your dog or cat doesn’t have easy access to the tree, especially when you’re not around.

Image courtesy Pixabay
2.      That’s shocking – Another potential holiday hazard to pets of all kinds is electrocution.  Electrically operated holiday ornaments and Christmas lights usually come equipped with a power cord.  Everything from dogs and cats to birds and hamsters have been known to injure themselves by gnawing on or pecking on electrical cords.  If you find it impossible to either keep your pets away from these hazards, the other way to discourage them from getting shocked is to put some vinegar in a spray bottle and spray the cords to sour the taste of these tempting treats.

3.      Should you deck the halls with bows of holly? – Not if you have pets.  Some holiday plants like holly and poinsettias are toxic if ingested.  With holly, even the berries are especially poisonous if eaten.  Mistletoe too is hazardous to pets since it contains phoratoxin that can cause heart and stomach distress.  Even some outdoor plants such as amaryllis and African violets are highly toxic.  If your pet should suddenly start exhibiting strange behavior, such as stumbling, rolling their eyes, vomiting or having a seizure, you need to take it to the vet right away.  If you wait until the next day, it could be too late to reverse the toxin’s effects.

Image courtesy flickr
4.      Free all-you-can-eat buffet – Another thing that all pets like to put in their mouths are holiday treats like cookies and candy.  Dog owners know that chocolate is toxic to their pets and go to all kinds of lengths to make sure these sweet treats are out of Fido’s reach.  What most don’t know is that raisins are just as deadly to dogs as chocolate.  Even a few raisins are enough to cause kidney failure in dogs.  So too are onions, garlic and even gravy.   Since dogs are chowhounds that will think nothing of pulling leftovers off a table onto the floor to gorge themselves, make doubly sure that you keep an eye on them until the dishes have been cleared away unless you want them to treat your holiday dinner like a free all-you-can-eat buffet.

5.      Cancel the holiday candles – While lighting a few candles adds a warm glow to your home during the holidays, they can also become a hazard if your pets either burn themselves or knock them over.  If you have pets, your best bet is to either cancel the candles or opt for the battery-operated kind that won’t pose a threat to your pet. 

Image courtesy PxHere
6.      Are your pets party animals? – I know that sounds like a trick question, but I assure you it isn’t.  While people associate holiday parties with Christmas cheer, your pets see it as a shock to the system.  Suddenly there are all kinds of strange adults and children invading their territory.  The music and conversation going on around them is way too loud.  There’s food and beverages lying all around, much of it unattended.  That makes it all too easy for a pet to get skittish to the point where it bites or scratches a guest.  If you host a holiday party, best leave your pets off the guest list.  Either lock them in a bedroom with some toys and pet treats or sequester them in the backyard or garage until the festivities are over.  If you choose the yard, doublecheck to make sure your pet has its collar and ID tag on in case it gets loose.

7.      Make a list and check it twice. – To be on the safe side, make sure you keep a list of emergency phone numbers to your vet, the closest 24-hour pet hospital and the Animal Poison Control Center handy.  Because when it comes to holidays and pet safety, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida.  To find out more about saving money on all your insurance needs, check out her website at


  1. I once had a black lab snag a tin of cookies off the top of the fridge. It's amazing how resourceful pets can be when they want a treat.

  2. Most of us forget about our pets during holiday parties. This article really makes you think about our 4 legged family members and how the holidays can affect them. Thanks.


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