Thursday, October 29, 2009

Halloween Pet Safety

It’s the holiday season again, and everyone knows what that means: colorful decorations, family gatherings, out-of-town trips, baked goodies, succulent holiday meals and presents, presents, presents. But what you may not know is that the benign-seeming trappings of holiday celebration can be dangerous, and even deadly, to your pet and Halloween celebrations are certainly a huge part of our lives and no different that any other time of year.

Here’s some tips, things to watch out for and resources to be safe this holiday season that I have gathered over the years for my press release research that may be handy for everyone – Enjoy!

Holiday injuries reported by local veterinarians
Stomach problems from eating things they shouldn’t and over eating, Vomiting, Smoke inhalation, Blockages, Surgery, Items lodged in the throat or stomach, Stomach poisons, Pets being stepped on, Pancrititus, Diarrehea, Injuries from escape, Upset stomach

Holiday Hazards
· Electrical shock from chewing on lights and decorations
· Decorations that are within reach of pets that get knocked over
· Pets chewing or eating on decorations and gift wrap such as bows, ribbons, artificial snow, bubble lights, strings, tinsel, metal ornament hangers (replace with yarn),
· Eating plants like mistletoe, balsam, juniper, cedar, pine, fir, hibiscus, holly, ivy and pointsetta.
· Eating items like trash, glass or plastic ornaments,
· Certain foods not meant for pets like chocolate, bones, turkey skins, people foods, and candy
· Over eating their own food
· Preservatives, sugar, and aspirin additives used in the water reservoir can cause intestinal problems, so make sure the base is inaccessible.
· When traveling with your pets, make sure they are properly secured and don’t fly them in the cargo area on airplanes unless absolutely necessary.
When cooking dinner for your guests, be sure to move pet birds away from the kitchen area. Fumes released from non-stick cookware and self-cleaning ovens can be deadly.
· Artificial trees pose their own hazards. Small pieces of plastic or aluminum can break off and be swallowed, causing intestinal blockage or irritation to the mouth. Check your tree carefully for loose bits as you assemble it.
· Candles & Lights: When setting the mood, be careful to keep candles out of pets’ reach. No one wants singed whiskers and candles can easily be knocked over causing burns to pets or humans. Also, make sure electrical cords are out of the way, taped firmly to walls or floors.
· Poinsettias are not highly toxic but do have a substance in the leaves that is very irritating. This substance can cause irritation on the skin and also of the stomach and intestines, so ingestion may cause vomiting and diarrhea.
· Chocolate, for example, contains theobromine, which can be toxic to dogs and other animals at fairly low doses. Again, if your pets are loose in the home, make sure such items are out of reach as they will help themselves given the chance. Other sweets may not be toxic but nonetheless should not be given. Likewise, keep your pets on their regular diets. If you stray from the regular diet in order to give pets special treats or meals over the holidays, your pet will likely have a digestive upset, which may not be serious but is uncomfortable and stressful.

Suggestions to prevent injuries and other holiday suggestions
· Pet proof the property
· Keep food items, toxic chemicals and electrical wiring out of reach of pets.
· Properly exercise your pets and provide suitable habitats for them.
· Supervise pets to avoid contact with decorations.
· If you need to decorate your home for the holiday and need to leave for any period of time, secure your pet in a part of the house that is decoration free or at the least quarantine pets by putting baby gates up around holiday décor
· Unplug/turn off items requiring electricity while not in use, only leave on what is necessary to avoid risks of power surges and sparks from outages.
· Clear obstacles from doorways or entryways.
· Make sure flammable materials are clear from electrical outlets.
· Being responsible with decorations and presents
· Care about what kind of water you put under the tree
· Be careful about food that other people are feeding your pets and chewing on string.
· Keep pets indoors and attended when outside.
· Careful about any candy that is on any gifts (like candy canes, chocolates, etc).
· Keep a watchful eye.
· Pick up trash and keep mistletoe and tees out of reach of pets.
· Keep animals crated, be watchful when others are in town and how they interact with the pets.
· Websites like the SD Humane Society have plenty of tips.
· All small things picked up out of reach of pets like plastic ornaments.
· Get silk plants instead of live plants.
· Keep them away when visitors are present, and in the case of escape make sure your pets are always wearing identification tags.
· Do not feed them foods that are not meant for pets.
· Have a pet professional visit the house during the holidays.
· Put decorations high up out of reach.
· If you can add a bit about what to do if you are having a holiday celebration at the home, you might want to mention that holidays are the most popular time to lose a pet because people come in and out of the doors - so it can be best to confine the pet to another area of the home. That also prevents them from getting snacks off the people-food platters and plates left around.
· You can never give your pet sitter too much information about your dogs. Most folks using a pet sitter for the 1st time severely under estimate just how professional it is. if you don't feel like you are dealing with a professional pet sitter, then call another one. Don’t omit anything about your pet knowingly. If your pet ever bit or nipped someone the person in charge of care of your pets will at least want to know.
· Don’t give pets as gifts! As generous and loving as it may seem, if the receiver is not experienced the likelihood of the pet ending up at a rescue is greater. If you should bring in a new pet into the home, wait until the holidays are over as it may be too stressful for your new “furkid”.
· California Veterinary Medical Association says: “Don't dress up your dog or cat unless you know it likes to be dressed up. If you decide to do so, make sure the costume isn't annoying or unsafe and doesn't restrict movement, vision, hearing, or ability to breathe or bark. Avoid costumes with small or dangling accessories that could be chewed off and possibly choked on.”
· “Too much fatty, rich, or even just new types of foods can make your pet sick, so go easy on the tidbits. Bones can tear up or obstruct your pets' insides. Onions destroy a dog's red blood cells, leading to anemia. And chocolate, especially baking chocolate, can actually kill your dog, so keep it all well out of reach. Instead, treat your pets to feast of their own-pet food, a catnip treat, a special chewy, or a few tablespoons of peanut butter stuffed in a favorite 'food carrier' toy!”
· Pets can get just as stressed with increased guests, noise and activity. Make sure your pet always has a quiet secure place to escape to and be sure to set aside moments every day for quality time with your pet!
· “Luckily, we San Diegans enjoy a pretty moderate climate, but in many parts of the country, winter is a season of bitter cold and wetness. If you're visiting a colder climate this winter…” “Make sure you keep your pets in a warm, dry secure spot. Dogs, cats and other pets, are safer, happier and healthier when kept indoors. The salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate the pads of your pet's feet. Wipe the feet with a damp towel before your pet licks them and irritates his/her mouth. Antifreeze is a deadly poison, but it has a taste that attracts animals. Wipe up spills and store antifreeze (and all household chemicals) out of reach.”
· Don't forget to spend quality time with the fur-family - sometimes we get so caught up in the activities and family feuds, we don't take time for long walks and play sessions with our buddies - which are an excellent de-stressor
· Remember to water the tree regularly, so that the dogs don't!
· Decorate the lower branches with things that don't mind being broken, swallowed or pawed.
· If you have a chewer, coat new wires (like the ones for the christmas tree lights) in bitter apple, or another chew deterent.
· Anchour your christmas tree to the ceiling or wall behind it. The tree was up all of five minutes before Raider decided the garland was fun to grab and run with.
· Don't spoil your holiday with a medical emergency. Please consult your veterinarian, animal poison control, and the manufacturer for specifics. Remember, the earlier you seek treatment, the better for your pet!
· If you want to decorate your pet, invest in a holiday collar.
· Try to minimize changes in your pet's normal routine, place it's home in a quieter part of the home if there are lots of visitors around, and bring familiar belongings or toys if traveling with your pet.
· Keep tabs on the Christmas "Spirits" If you or your guests plan to indulge in any alcoholic beverages, make sure that your bird does not have access to them. Alcohol can be deadly to birds, and curious parrots have been known to sneak a drink out of unattended glasses. Keep your pet safe by confining him to an area away from the festivities.
· Remember that any holiday hazard applies to all types of domestic pets, not just dogs and cats, and especially for pets that will have access.
· Pay attention to stress levels. Birds can get stressed pretty easily, and the holidays can make it worse by exposing them to sights, sounds, and people that they are not accustomed to. Consider leaving your bird caged in a quiet, comfortable, and secure area of your home until the party winds down. This will help make sure that your celebration does not cause undue stress or discomfort for your feathered friend.
· When your bird is out of his cage, always make sure to keep a close eye on what he is getting into. Always paying attention to your bird's whereabouts and actions is the best way to keep your bird safe.
· Many exotic pets (e.g. rabbits, ferrets, and rodents) will happily chew on electrical cords, which may be more accessible with lights and trees in the home. Make sure cords are out of reach, or get some flexible plastic tubing to encase any wires. Playful pets may try to chew or swallow ornaments and decorations, which could potentially cause an intestinal blockage, so close supervision or confinement away from decorations may be necessary.

Disaster Center, The Humane Society of the United States -
Emergency Preparedness Kits for Cats & Dogs -
Holiday Pet Safety Checklist -
PetSaver First Aid Class program -
PetSaver First Aid Training -
OptiWell First Aid Classes -
American Red Croos First Aid Training Clasases -
You can also contact the Pet Poison Helpline at (800) 213-6680 or go to as well.
Animal Poison Control FAQ -
Top 10 Pet Poisons of 2008 -
Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants Database-
17 Common Poisonous Plants -

Hope that helps!! Have a safe Holiday!

Best wishes,

Pet and House Care Provider
For more resources click on “Pet Owner Resources” at my website:
Pet/House Care Blog: