Halloween causes well-known safety risks to our pets — from ringing doorbells to access chocolate in trick-or-treat bags — but here are three surprising threats often overlooked: burning candles, essential oils used in potpourri containers and xylitol, an ingredient in sugar-free gum and candy.
One of the most common ailments emergency care veterinarians see during these holidays are dogs and cats with burns on their paws and tails from swatting at the flickering flames and horrible chemical burns on tongues caused by lapping up essential oils from potpourri containers that spill on their coats and they attempt to lick off.
Try these safe substitutions: battery-operated candles that can be placed inside real carved pumpkins or synthetic pumpkins. Choose scented potpourri with sturdy lids. If your pet ingests the essential oils from a spill, the chemicals will cause serious burns to your pet’s mouth and esophagus and may even be fatal.
Keep sugar-free gum and mints also out of paw’s reach. Xylitol, the chemical in sugar-free products, is a surprisingly powerful toxin to dogs.
Here are some tips to prevent Thanksgiving and Yule time from turning into yowl time filled with canine calamity and feline frustration:
• Power walk with your pooch. By sticking to a daily brisk walk or run with your dog each day, you offer a healthy outlet to unleash your dog’s pent up energy and anxiety caused by holiday guests and indoor decorations. Physical exercise also helps you stave off some of the holiday stress. Use the walk to mentally map out your holiday gift list or holiday dinner game plan – or as a good excuse to escape irritating or demanding relatives who are visiting.
• Opt for pet-safe decorations. Avoid any edible ornament (especially stringed popcorn) or breakable ornaments. Your dog or cat can cut their paws by stepping on broken glass ornaments and need sutures. Skip the tinsel – even a slight movement of this shiny strand can be too irresistible to your play-minded cat. You don’t want to spend Christmas at the pet emergency hospital as veterinarians perform abdominal surgery to remove swallowed tinsel.
• Keep an eye on the bubbly. Don’t leave glasses of wine or champagne unattended as alcohol can cause havoc on your pet’s digestion system. Also watch where you place your glass of eggnog, punch or other alcohol-laden drink. An ounce of alcohol can cause alcohol poisoning in a small breed dog.
• Serve familiar foods. Treats of turkey, ham, gravy, cookies and other holiday goodies can lead to gastrointestinal upsets in your dog or cat not accustomed to eating these foods. Maintain your dog or cat’s regular commercial food diet during the holidays. Also, alert guests to not succumb to your pet’s begging behavior by feeding him people food.
• Stash the sweets and bread dough. Make sure that the kitchen is off-limits to your dog while you make your world famous holiday cookies containing chocolate or other doggy dangerous ingredients. Keep holiday foods in storage containers out of paw’s reach.
• Be aware of plant perils. Locate holiday plants, especially mistletoe, holly, poinsettias and Christmas cactus on hanging ceiling hooks or other high, secure places out of paw’s reach. Ingested leaves can cause diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration.
Finally, give your pet the most priceless of all holiday gifts — the gift of your one-on-one time. You can stave off some of the holiday stress by calmly calling your pets and cuddling with them on the sofa for 5 to 10 minutes each day. Simply enjoy being in the moment with your four-legged pal. You will be amazed how this daily ritual will help you and your pet survive, perhaps even thrive, during the holidays.
By Sarah Zumhofe