With the Christmas season in full swing, it’s a good time to consider making the holidays and cold-weather months safer for pets. The first step is making your home and decorations pet friendly.
Cold-weather considerations for pet owners include:
l Antifreeze: Be certain to use pet-safe products, and don’t let pets wander around garages and places where chemicals may run into puddles.
l Snow melt products: Invest in pet-safe ice melt products. They will save your pet from cracked pads.
l Booties and coats: New footwear and coats help keep pets warm and prevent ice between toes.
l Safer walks: Pets that pull can cause injuries when walking on slick surfaces. Protect yourself by investing in a properly fitted prong collar or head harness, along with obedience lessons.
l Check dog houses for safety and warmth and make repairs to ensure your pet stays protected from the elements. Keep pet bowls free of ice and change them frequently when the weather is below 32 degrees.
l Get pets examined by a vet. This is especially important for pets over 7 years and those that are kept outdoors. Toenail maintenance and arthritis treatments can improve life expectancy and your pet’s comfort.
l Pets with lameness, injuries or arthritis benefit from wearing Toe Grips for better traction. Ask your vet to apply them.
Beware of these holiday specific dangers for pets:
l Holiday tinsel, ornaments, and garland: Tinsel, while not toxic, is very attractive to pets, particularly cats. The problem with tinsel is that once it’s consumed, it can cause serious injury to your pet. If not caught in time, this foreign object can be fatal as it bunches inside your pet’s intestines. Immediate veterinary care is required.
l Colorful ornaments attract pets. Place glass, aluminum and paper ornaments higher on the tree. Broken pieces can lacerate the mouth, throat and intestines or become a choking hazard.
l Dangling holiday lights may be a source of danger. If your pet loves to chew, electrical shock may occur if he bites on a cord, causing mouth burns and possible death. Use grounded, three-prong extension cords and unplug lights when you are away from home or crate pets to make sure they don’t have access to cords, candles and lights.
l Quickly discard ribbons and bows wrapped around holiday gifts so your companions won’t be tempted to chew them. Ingested ribbon can be a choking hazard.
Be cautious about leaving ribbons near pets and prevent access to wrapped gifts. Clients have told me about pets that have eaten entire packages of pet treats, chocolates and other wrapped gifts, not thinking about their companion’s great sense of smell.
l Remember to protect pets from foods that can be toxic. Sugar-free candies and gum contain xylitol, which is highly toxic to all pets.
Chocolates contain various levels of fat, caffeine and theobromine. The darker the chocolate (i.e., baker’s chocolate), the higher the risk of toxicity. Depending on the type and amount of chocolate ingested, pets might experience vomiting, diarrhea, urination, hyperactivity, heart arrhythmias, tremors and seizures.
Fat trimmed from meat, both cooked and uncooked, may cause pancreatitis. Although it seems natural to give a dog a bone, avoid cooked bones that can splinter and cause obstructions or lacerations in your pet’s digestive tract.
Certain nuts should not be given to pets. Almonds, walnuts and pistachios cause an upset stomach or obstruction of the intestinal tract. Macadamia nuts and moldy walnuts can cause seizures.
Keep your pet on her regular diet and caution visitors against giving table food. Keep a baggie filled with your pet’s approved snacks and treats, to limit types of treats. Remember to cut back on her usual food when visitors are present, so she doesn’t overindulge.
Use these tips to help make the season truly merry and safe.
Dr. Cynthia Maro is a veterinarian at the Ellwood Animal Hospital in Ellwood City and the Chippewa Animal Hospital in Chippewa Township. She writes a biweekly column on pet care and health issues. If you have a topic you’d like addressed, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.