Warm and cozy…but safe?

Published 10:30 pm Friday, December 19, 2008

People love their pets, even to the point that they consider them part of the family. So it’s no surprise that families celebrate the holidays with their pets.

But there are certain aspects of holidays like Christmas that can be hazardous to a furry one’s health.

First of all, people with live Christmas trees should keep their pets away from the needles because eating them can puncture an animal’s intestines and cause internal bleeding.

Also, plants that are popular this time of year like holly, mistletoe and especially poinsettias are very toxic to animals, said Paula Jo Mattingly, director of the Chilton County Humane Society.

Some dogs might even be tempted to eat glass bulbs, which obviously have the potential for harm, she added.

“You have to really watch them,” Mattingly said. “Halfway down my tree is empty because I don’t want them to eat anything.”

Even snow globes can be dangerous because many of them are known to contain antifreeze.

“Antifreeze has a sweet taste to dogs but it is way toxic,” Mattingly warns.

Both dogs and cats are prone to chew on electrical wiring, so it is recommended that pet owners tape wiring to the floor. Mattingly suggested using painter’s tape because it shouldn’t pull up anything from the floor.

Aside from specific sources of danger, stress is another big concern for animals any time of year.

“If you don’t stay in your routine with your dog, it can cause stress, which can cause them to have diarrhea and drink more water,” she said, noting that people shouldn’t allow guests to feed their pets.

When it comes to food, turkey bones are bad news as they can splinter and cause intestinal bleeding. And, of course, sweets are also bad.

For outdoor animals, pet owners want to make sure they stay warm in cold weather. Mattingly recommends using hay or straw in a bed, and keeping them in a good, sturdy structure that has ventilation at the top but does not leak, as moisture can cause respiratory illness.

Animals who catch a bit of a cold may take children’s cough medicine, but this is not recommended for large dogs because of the large amount of medicine it takes to be effective.

Some people use aspirin in water for their live Christmas trees, but pet owners should beware of this tradition. Just drinking the water is bad for pets, but the aspirin makes it even worse.

“It might keep your tree alive, but it’s very bad for your dog,” Mattingly warns.

Other pointers include keeping small toys and stocking stuffers picked up when children are not playing with them.