ARA, ASPCA offer tips to keep pets safe around holiday decor

December 19th, 2011 by Amy Glover Bryant

The staff at the Arkansas Realtors Association has been busy decorating our offices and our homes for the holidays.

We’ve been shopping for the “best deals” on indoor and outdoor lights, discussing how the recent rains might be impacting our outdoor lighting displays and growing more and more excited about spending the holidays with family and friends.

Like many people, this is one of my absolute favorite times of the year. I’ve always thought home never felt more like home than it does during the holidays. Maybe it’s the fire in the fireplace, the lights of the tree or the anticipation of young family members waiting for the day when all those presents can be popped open.

The holidays are a time to be careful and protect your pets.  Photo by Amy Glover Bryant.

The holidays are a time to be careful and protect your pets. Photo by Amy Glover Bryant.

The one thing I’ve always missed because I have a house full of pets is surrounding my tree and my house with bright, big poinsettia plants. I always heard they were deadly to animals. Not so says the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center. Yes, eating them will make your dog or cat feel pretty awful — mouth and stomach irritations and vomiting — but the ASPCA says its toxicity is overrated.

Good to know. I probably still won’t purchase poinsettias this year since I have what I affectionately describe as an 8-month-old “crazy teenage boxer.” I already caught her carrying a (thankfully) unopened bag of chocolates around. Maybe we’ll try poinsettias next year though.

Other ASPCA tips for keeping your four-legged family members safe this holiday include the following:

O CHRISTMAS TREE

Securely anchor your Christmas tree so it doesn’t tip and fall, causing possible injury to your pet. This will also prevent the tree water — which may contain fertilizers that can cause stomach upset — from spilling. Stagnant tree water is a breeding ground for bacteria (not to mention a non-festive treat for your guests to smell) and your pet could end up with nausea or diarrhea should he imbibe.

TINSEL-LESS TOWN

Kitties love this sparkly, light-catching “toy” that’s easy to bat around and carry in their mouths. But a nibble can lead to a swallow, which can lead to an obstructed digestive tract, severe vomiting, dehydration and possible surgery. It’s best to brighten your boughs with something other than tinsel.

NO FEASTING FOR THE FURRIES

As I alluded to earlier — do not to feed your pets chocolate. I’ve already secured the bags of chocolate my puppy found and will guard my grandmother’s chocolate cake with my life to make sure it and my baby dogs stay safe when we serve our holiday meal.

FORGET THE MISTLETOE AND HOLLY

Holly, when ingested, can cause pets to suffer nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Mistletoe can cause gastrointestinal upset and cardiovascular problems. And many varieties of lilies, can cause kidney failure in cats if ingested.

I’m sure my mother is going to kick me for writing this, but opt for artificial plants made from silk or plastic. Better yet, purchase a pet-safe fresh arrangement.

THAT HOLIDAY GLOW

Don’t leave lighted candles unattended. Pets may burn themselves or cause a fire if they knock candles over.

Be sure to use appropriate candle holders, placed on a stable surface. And if you leave the room, put the candle out!

WIRED UP

As we’ve all seen from the movie Christmas Vacation, a wire can deliver a potentially lethal electrical shock and a punctured battery can cause burns to the mouth and esophagus.

Keep wires, batteries and glass or plastic ornaments out of paws’ reach. I learned this the hard way when I was first married. At least two nights during the holiday season my husband and I awoke to the sound of glass ornaments crashing down on to hardwood floors at 2 a.m. There’s nothing less fun than waking up to vacuum at 2 a.m. so that your cats don’t swallow glass or get it in their paws.

CAREFUL WITH COCKTAILS

If your celebration includes adult holiday beverages, be sure to place your unattended alcoholic drinks where pets cannot get to them. If ingested, your pet could become weak, ill and may even go into a coma, possibly resulting in death from respiratory failure.

House to House is distributed by the Arkansas Realtors Association. For more information about the ARA, visit http://www.ArkansasRealtors.com.

More from columnist Amy Glover Bryant

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