The holidays are a festive, joyous and exciting time of year. For our pets, the holidays can be stressful and scary. Here are some tips to keep them happy and healthy during the holiday season.

Disastrous Decorations

Holiday Plants: Beautiful as they are, lilies, mistletoe, Christmas cacti, holly berries, and poinsettias are poisonous to cats. Plants with pine needles can puncture your pet’s intestines or stomach if ingested. Consider non-toxic, artificial renditions that can be reused.

Holiday Decorations: When putting up the tree, leave it without decorations for a few days. Give your pets a chance to get used to it. Secure it to an immoveable surface to keep it from toppling over. Place soft, pet-friendly ornaments on the bottom branches.

Emma Crawford, Donor Relations & Program Coordinator, The Hermitage No-Kill Cat Shelter & Sanctuary, cautions us about glass bulbs and electrical cords. “Tiny pieces of glass can embed themselves in your pet’s toes. Keep electrical cords out of reach from curious mouths. Consider an 'upside-down' tree that is attached to the ceiling.”

Tinsel & Trim: These are extremely dangerous to animals. If ingested, tinsel and trim can loop around their intestines. The treatment involves expensive abdominal surgery.

Open Flames: Make sure candles have burned out before going to bed. Rambunctious pets can knock them over, causing a fire and /or burn themselves.

Gift Wrap: Bows and ribbon can get caught in your pet’s digestive tract.

Guest Overload

Pets can become stressed from the overload of new sights, sounds and disrupted routines. They may become frightened, aggressive, or try to escape. Reduce your pet’s stress level, with these simple tricks.

Safe Room: Secure pets in a closed room with food, water, toys, a comfy bed, and a litter box. Inform guests there are pets and not to enter the safe room (put a sign on the door). Before the festivities begin, spend time playing and comforting them. After the festivities end and guests depart, play and reassure them with snuggles.

Animals as Gifts

It may seem like a wonderful idea to gift an animal. In actuality, it does not work out well, particularly for the animal.

“The Hermitage, and many shelters like us, do not recommend, or allow, purchasing/adopting a pet on behalf of someone, as a gift,” said Crawford. “Is that person actually ready to adopt, and would this animal really be a good fit for them?”

Consider purchasing an “adoption kit” and offering to pay the adoption fee instead. Create a kit with dishes, food, treats, toys, a bed and pan/litter (for cats). Allowing the recipient to pick out their companion is a gift itself.

Harmful Foods

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®) recommends the following foods and ingredients should NEVER be given to your pets.

Alcohol: NEVER give animals alcohol..

Chocolate, Coffee and Caffeine: The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous.

Citrus: Can cause irritation and central nervous system depression if ingested in significant amounts.

Coconut and Coconut Oil: May cause stomach upset, loose stools or diarrhea.

Grapes and Raisins: Can cause kidney failure.

Macadamia Nuts: Weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors, and hyperthermia in dogs can occur.

Milk and Dairy: As much as cats love it, milk and other dairy-based products cause diarrhea or other digestive upset.

Nuts: Nuts contain high amounts of oils and fats that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and pancreatitis.

Onions, Garlic, Chives: Can cause gastrointestinal irritation and lead to red blood cell damage.

Raw/Undercooked Meat, Eggs and Bones: Salmonella and E. coli can be present. Raw bones might cause choking, or grave injury should they splinter, lodge or puncture your pet’s digestive tract.

Salt and Salty Snack Foods: Can cause vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, elevated body temperature, seizures, and even death.

Xylitol: Can cause insulin release, which can lead to liver failure and progress to seizures.

Yeast Dough: Can cause gas to accumulate in the digestive system. Can be painful and cause the stomach to bloat and twist, becoming a life-threatening emergency. Yeast produces ethanol. A dog ingesting raw bread dough can become drunk.

If you suspect your pet has eaten any of these foods, note the amount ingested and contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 right away.

For more do-it-yourself tips, go to rosieonthehouse.com. An Arizona home building and remodeling industry expert since 1988, Rosie Romero is the host of the syndicated Saturday morning Rosie on the House radio program, heard locally from 8 to 11 a.m. on KNST-AM (790) in Tucson and from 7 to 10 a.m. on KGVY-AM (1080) and -FM (100.7) in Green Valley. Call 888-767-4348.

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