Keep Fido safe through the holiday

Published 1:26 pm Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The holiday season is a time for family and friends to celebrate together. With the dinner parties, gift exchanges and home redecorations, it can be easy to forget the smallest members of the household: the family pets.

“We’ve seen and heard plenty of these (holiday cases) especially the day after Christmas or before Christmas,” said Chris Reyman, a technician assistant at Nansemond Veterinary Clinic. “We used to see a lot more of these things, but we still get them in.”

While all of the fun and busyness surrounding the holiday season can be exciting for the people participating in it, the preparation and byproducts of such events can be potentially hazardous or even deadly to the animals living in the home.

Email newsletter signup

A few simple steps can help pet owners protect their pets throughout the holidays.

For example, many holiday plants can lead to health problems in dogs and cats. Among the plants to keep out of reach are holly, mistletoe and lilies.

“Put the plants up where the animals can’t chew on them,” Reyman said. He added that the toxicity to animals of those plants can vary, and causing anything from vomiting to cardiovascular distress.

Reyman also recommends that when pet owners host holiday parties or events, they should make sure to create a safe haven for the animal to retreat to, in case the party gets overwhelming.

“Some of them just don’t like all the commotion,” he said.

Holiday guests and other activities can be very stressful and even frightening to pets, according to the Partnership for Animal Welfare. The group recommends creating a quiet retreat for pets in the house and to make sure they are wearing current I.D. tags in case they escape out a door when guests come and go.

PAW also offers simple insights to pet owners regarding the following common holiday décor:

4Snow globes often contain antifreeze, which is poisonous to pets.

4Pine needles, when ingested, can puncture holes in a pet’s intestine. So keep pet areas clear of pine needles.

4The extra cords and plugs of holiday lights and other fixtures can look like chew toys to pets. Tape down or cover cords to help avoid shocks, burns or other serious injuries. Unplug lights when you are not home.

4Do not let pets drink the holiday tree water. Some may contain fertilizers, and stagnant tree water can harbor bacteria. Check labels for tree water preservatives and artificial snow, and buy only those that are nontoxic. (Very important: Do not put aspirin in the water in hopes of keeping a tree or plant more vigorous. If a pet ingests aspirin-laced water, its health or even life can be at risk.)

4Pets, particularly cats, can be tempted to eat tinsel, which can block the intestines. Hang tinsel high and securely to keep it out of reach of pets.

4Keep other ornaments out of reach of pets because broken glass, plastic or material can cause damage to a pet’s internal organs.

Reyman suggested a trick for a pet owner who thinks the pet has eaten broken glass. He said to soak cotton balls in milk and then feed the cotton to the pet.

“If there’s any loose pieces of glass that passes, it’ll get caught up in the cotton and it’ll pass relatively harmlessly,” he said.

For more information on how to protect your pet this holiday season, visit the Partnership for Animal Welfare Web site at or call the local animal control center.