(WKRG) — ‘Tis the season to put up your trees, hang your wreaths and get out your favorite Christmas ornaments. Some of these beloved holiday traditions carry possible risks for our pets, especially for curious kittens and puppies who are experiencing their first-ever Christmas.
Some holiday decorations, plants and foods can cause serious illness or even death if pets eat or come in contact with them. Knowing these holiday hazards can keep your pet safe and potentially save their lives.
Identifying potential hazards on your Christmas Tree
Tinsels and ribbon: The shine that makes tinsel so pretty on a Christmas tree can also attract a cat’s playful eye. Tinsel is very light and easy for cats to carry in their mouth, making it easy for them to swallow. If ingested, tinsel can obstruct a cat’s digestive tract, leading to severe vomiting, dehydration and possible surgery, according to the ASPCA. Ribbon can also pose a serious threat if ingested. The ASPCA recommends avoiding sparkly tinsels and ribbons if your cat is prone to climbing the tree looking for things to play with.
Christmas lights: Christmas lights are also a potential hazard if your cat or dog loves to chew through cords. Exposed wires can shock animals, possibly killing them and punctured batteries can cause chemical burns to the mouth and esophagus if swallowed. Although Christmas lights are a favored tradition, if your pet is prone to chewing cords, it may be in your best interest to skip them this year.
Glass ornaments vs. plastic ornaments: The ASPCA urges residents to keep their pets away from glass and plastic ornaments. These ornaments can break when knocked off the tree and pieces can also be swallowed by animals. However, it’s not easy to keep a determined kitten from climbing the tree and ornaments are likely going to be on your Christmas tree. Shatterproof ornaments are typically plastic, but they might be the best solution to this problem. They are more durable than regular plastic and glass ornaments and are less likely to shatter and harm your pet.
Avoid these potentially dangerous holiday plants and foods
Holiday Plants: Poinsettias, holly and mistletoe can cause a host of sicknesses if your pets decide to munch on their leaves. Vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing slowed heart rate, low blood pressure and odd behaviors can happen if a pet ingests these plants, according to a website post from the FDA. Keep these plants out of reach or remove them from your home altogether.
Sweets: Make sure your pet is kept away from sweets that contain potentially toxic ingredients. Mint sweets are especially dangerous for dogs since they contain the same chemical compound in chocolate that can cause vomiting and seizures. The ASPCA urges that if your dog eats either mint or chocolate, call your vet immediately.
High fat meats: The FDA reports that meats high in fat can cause a potentially life-threating disease called pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is a disease that affects both dogs and cats. Pancreatitis causes vomiting, stomach pain, restlessness, shaking, diarrhea, fever and weakness in dogs. Pancreatitis also causes decreased appetite and weight loss in cats. If you suspect that your dog or cat may have pancreatitis, you should call your vet immediately.
Bones: Turkey carcasses and steak bones can get stuck in your dog’s trachea and esophagus, or if ingested, can cut their mouth, esophagus and stomach, according to the FDA. To avoid internal injuries, make sure you don’t give your dog any leftover bones or scraps.
Want to keep with tradition? Try these methods to keep your pets away from from your Christmas decorations
Tin Foil: Tin foil is a safe option to keep pets away from your Christmas tree. The Human Society of Huron Valley recommends using tin foil as a way to keep your pets off surfaces and countertops. Cats especially, do not like the texture on their feet, so using it at the base of the tree might keep them climbing it. Tin foil is not the most pleasing item for a Christmas tree base so if you don’t like this option, here are two others that might suit your needs.
Cat repellant: If you really want to keep with tradition, using natural repellents may work to keep your cats from messing with the tree. Many online resources recommend using citrus as a natural repellant, but be wary of leaving orange peels around or spraying citrus near your cats. Citrus is toxic to cats and dogs and can cause skin irritation, diarrheas and vomiting, according to the ASPCA. Instead of using citrus products, you can use lemon balm, rosemary and other non-toxic plants near your tree to keep them away.
Toys: If you want to keep your cat off your Christmas tree, having toys or spaces for your cat to play in may be a good idea. The Mobile SPCA recommends using plastic balls, paper bags and cardboard tubes to keep your cat active and entertained. If they have something to play with, chances are they are less likely to mess with the tree.
For more information, check out these holiday tips from ASPCA and FDA on how to keep your pets safe during the holiday season.