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Holiday schedules can be especially hectic, making it important to make every effort to keep a pet’s eating and exercise regimen as close to normal as possible – and that includes taking steps to safeguard against the animal chewing on unhealthy treats, dangerous decorations and toxic plants.


For many families, the Christmas tree is the focal point of holiday decorations. Oklahoma State University Extension recommendations are to securely anchor the tree so it does not tip over. This also can prevent the tree water from spilling.


“Tree water may contain fertilizers that can cause an upset stomach for a pet,” said Dr. Rosslyn Biggs, OSU Extension veterinarian and director of continuing education for the university’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “Also, stagnant tree water is a breeding ground for bacteria, which can induce nausea or diarrhea should a pet drink the water.”


Most felines gravitate toward things that are shiny and sparkly, so rethink using tinsel on the tree. Swallowed tinsel can lead to severe vomiting, dehydration and possibly an obstruction in the digestive tract which may require surgery.


Strings of lights are a common decoration for Christmas trees, along with lighted Christmas villages and other light-up decorations. Unfortunately, some pets may find the electrical cords enticing. Try to keep the cords behind furniture and other places that are inaccessible to pets. Other options include taping cords to the floor or using cord protectors.


“Although candles add an air of festiveness to your home’s decorations, they can be a danger not only to pets but people as well,” Biggs said. “The flame can cause burns, as can the hot wax if a lit candle is knocked over. Then there is the issue of possibly causing a fire.”


A variety of flameless candles are available commercially for those who enjoy their festive ambiance. Safety first, especially when it is relatively easy to do, Biggs recommended. However, burning scented candles or incense should be avoided if birds are in the home. Birds have an extremely efficient respiratory system that makes them susceptible to airborne toxins and smoke inhalation.


Although holly and mistletoe are popular holiday decorations, they can be hazardous to the health of pets when ingested. Holly can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Mistletoe can cause gastrointestinal upset and cardiovascular problems. An alternative is to choose artificial plants made from silk or plastic, and place them out of reach of pets.

Holiday gatherings of people come with their own considerations, given as how some special foods and beverages can be dangerous to animal companions. Biggs recommended pet owners do the following:

·       Keep pets away from the dinner table and unattended plates of food.

·       Securely fasten the trash can lids to safeguard against potential scavenging of scraps.

·       Always place holiday drinks out of reach of animals. Alcohol consumption can make a pet weak, ill or possible even induce a coma.

In addition, ensure a pet has its own quiet space to which it can retreat during a holiday party. If a pet does not handle guests well, enclose them in location of adequate size and be sure to provide plenty of water, food and a welcoming place to rest.

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