Decorations are glowing, the winter chill is in the air and families are planning gatherings—the holiday season has arrived. And although this is the season of festivities and joy, the winter holiday period can present many dangers for pets if their owners don’t take some simple precautions.
As you plan for holiday gatherings and decorate your home, be sure to keep in mind the safety of your pets.
If you’re putting up a Christmas tree(s), be sure to use an enclosed tree stand, or cover open tree stand bases if you can’t use an enclosed tree stand—pine tree water can be poisonous to pets. You should also secure the tree to the wall with strong wire or twine so the tree cannot topple onto pets.
Shining lights and dazzling ornaments can attract a pet’s attention, so if something would cause danger if chewed upon or ingested, keep it out of paw’s reach. Unplug lights and electrical decorations when no is around to supervise, and tack down (or cover) electrical cords. If you will be using lit candles, keep pets confined in another room to avoid burns or fire hazards.
Some plants should remain out pet’s reach as well, including the berries of the mistletoe, holly, hibiscus, Christmas roses, and the poinsettia. These common holiday plants are poisonous to pets.
When hosting holiday gatherings, set aside a room for your pets if they are easily frightened or not used to crowds of people. There your pet can relax with favorite toys, undisturbed by guests. And just in case the unlikely happens—your pet slips out of the house—make sure your pet is wearing an identification tag with your name and up-to-date contact information. This is also a great time to consider microchipping your pet.
Food is a common culprit of holiday pet emergencies, so be sure to keep certain items away from pets (and make sure your guests know to do so as well). Some of the holiday treats that can be harmful or toxic to pets include rich, fatty scraps; bones from pork and poultry; alcoholic beverages; chocolate, other sweets, and candies; the sugar substitute xylitol; bread dough; and onions. If your pet ingests a potentially harmful product, call a local veterinarian or emergency animal hospital immediately.
If holiday errands or winter trips will keep you away from home, ensure that you select a professional pet sitter to care for your pets. While “inexpensive” pet-care options may be tempting (e.g. family, friends, or “pet lovers” pet sitting for extra cash), choosing a non-professional to watch your pets can be costly. They likely do not have the liability insurance coverage and pet-care training to provide the best care or cover the cost of any accidents that may occur. Pet Sitters International (PSI), the world’s leading educational association for professional pet sitters, advises to schedule a meeting in advance with any pet sitter you are considering hiring. PSI offers a free Pet-Sitter Interview Checklist and pet-sitter search at www.petsit.com/locate. And begin the search without delay! Many professional pet sitters get booked up weeks in advance of major holidays.
If you live in a region with extremely cold temperatures this winter season, also make sure your pets are protected from the elements. Keep them inside as much as possible, and thoroughly wipe off your pet’s paws after they have been outside since ice-melting chemicals and salt can irritate and burn their paws. Clip long hair on the bottom of dogs’ feet to prevent ice balls from building up, and also be sure to trim nails regularly so they can get a better grip on icy ground. Other tips include keeping antifreeze—which is poisonous to animals—out of pet’s reach and banging on the hood of your vehicle before cranking up, in case cats or wildlife crawled inside your engine seeking warmth.
If you take some simple precautions this holiday season, you can ensure that not only your two-legged family members—but your four-legged family members as well—can enjoy a safe and happy winter.
About Pet Sitters InternationalFounded in 1994 by Patti J. Moran, author of Pet Sitting for Profit, Pet Sitters International (PSI) is the world’s largest educational association for professional pet sitters, with member pet-sitting businesses in the United States, Canada, and more than 15 other countries. PSI members have access to the widest array of business services and educational resources available in the professional pet-sitting industry. PSI’s Pet Sitter Locator is the largest online directory of professional pet sitters, and pet owners can visit petsit.com/locate to find local professional pet sitters.