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Holiday Pet Safety during Winter Holidays

Friday, December 1, 2017  
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December brings holiday celebrations for many people, and with them challenges to keep their pets safe.  The Arizona Veterinary Medical Association (AzVMA) encourages pet owners to celebrate with their pets’ well-being in mind and to consult with their veterinarians about holiday safety tips and special health concerns.


"Hazard awareness and proper planning are essential for holiday celebrations that don't include a visit to the veterinary emergency room.  Holidays can be fraught with danger for pets, but with proper foresight, they can safely be included in family celebrations,” says Dr. William Griswold, DVM, of Priority Pet Hospital in Gilbert.  “Holidays are a time to visit with family and friends, but nobody wants to do that in the waiting room at a veterinary emergency room.”


Pet dangers lurk in almost everything associated with the holiday season — the food and drink, decorations, plants, visitors, and travel.  A key tactic to minimize these dangers is to learn what they are and to be proactive.  Plan ahead for emergencies by ensuring easy access to the phone numbers of your veterinarian and local emergency veterinary hospital, as well as the ASPCA Animal Poison Control phone number (1-888-426-4435).  Keep your pet’s veterinary records, including microchip number and immunization records, in a grab-and-go location.


Chocolate, raisins and grapes, sweets made with xylitol, table scraps (including turkey) and alcohol are some holiday foods that can cause illness in pets.  Pets are experts at finding unattended food and drink; if your pet is allowed to mingle at parties, patrol the area frequently.  After the party, do a thorough check for any stray consumables and secure the trash. 


Dog bite injuries, both to other pets and to people, increase during the holiday season.  Dogs can get stressed from disruption of their normal routines and the addition of new people and noises and then are more apt to bite.  “Both housemates and visiting canine ‘cousins’ can get overstimulated during big events or fight over a new toy or some tasty morsel that gets dropped,” says Dr. Griswold.  Ideally, pets should remain in a quiet, comfortable room away from the festivities; provide water, food, toys, and a litter box or puppy pad.


Plants, such as holly, mistletoe, and some flowers such as lilies are poisonous when eaten.  Christmas trees pose their own dangers and should be anchored to prevent tipping.  Pet owners should consider substituting pet-safe tree decorations for tinsel, lights and glass ornaments or placing them out of reach of pets.  Flameless candles are a better choice than open flames around playful and curious pets. 


If your pet is going away with you for the holidays, ask your veterinarian if your pet is healthy enough to travel, and about traveling tips and requirements.  Ensure that you will be in compliance with interstate and/or international pet travel regulations before you start out.  Your pet needs a secure space if traveling by car and you’ll need to pack any pet essentials, including medication if needed.  If flying, understand the risks to your pet and check government and airline regulations.  Collars with up-to-date identification tags, as well as microchips, will give pets a chance to be returned home if they get lost.  

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