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Friday, May 24, 2024

Protecting your furry friends: A guide to pet-safe Christmas gifts

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Christmas draws near and our hearts brim with happiness and expectation. We eagerly await the shimmering lights, cheerful decorations, and, of course, the tradition of gift-giving. Nevertheless, as we gear up to bestow presents upon our nearest and dearest, it is crucial to keep in mind the safety of those who share our homes with four-legged family members. While a well-chosen gift can elicit joy and enthusiasm, it is important to be aware that certain gifts may carry potential hazards for our furry companions. One must exercise caution when choosing gifts and placing gifts in areas where your pet goes or stays.

Edible Treats and Food

The tradition of giving food gifts during the holidays is deeply ingrained in our culture. However, many holiday treats, such as chocolate, raisins, grapes, and artificial sweeteners like xylitol, are toxic to pets. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), these substances can cause serious health issues, including gastrointestinal upset, seizures, and even death in some cases. Pet owners should ensure that these items are stored securely and out of reach of curious paws and snouts.

Dr. Sarah Brown, a veterinarian with over 15 years of experience, advises, “It’s important to educate family and friends about the potential hazards of sharing holiday goodies with pets. While a small amount may not be immediately harmful, it’s best to avoid sharing human food altogether and opt for pet-safe treats and toys instead.”

A cat bites the ribbon on a Christmas present. (Photo from iStock royalty-free images.)

Decorations and Ornaments

The festive spirit extends to decorating our homes with ornaments, tinsel, and lights. These items, however, can pose various risks to pets. Cats, in particular, are notorious for being attracted to shiny objects and may bat at ornaments or even try to eat them. This can result in choking hazards or intestinal blockages, which may require surgical intervention.

“Place breakable ornaments higher up on the tree and secure them to prevent accidents,” suggests Dr. Emily Roberts, a veterinarian and certified feline specialist. “Avoid using tinsel, which can be especially problematic if ingested, as it can lead to severe gastrointestinal issues. Opt for pet-friendly decorations made of non-toxic materials instead.”

Plants and Greenery

During the holiday season, many households adorn their homes with poinsettias, holly, mistletoe, and Christmas trees. These plants are also given as gifts to those who love flowers and plants. While these plants create a beautiful, festive atmosphere, they can be harmful to pets if ingested. Poinsettias, for example, can cause mild gastrointestinal upset, while holly and mistletoe are more toxic and can lead to severe reactions, including vomiting, diarrhea, and even heart issues in extreme cases.

Dr. Jane Miller, a veterinarian and pet toxicology expert, advises, “It’s important to keep these plants out of your pet’s reach. Consider using artificial or pet-safe versions of these decorations if you have curious pets. Also, be cautious about fallen pine needles from the Christmas tree, as they can be a choking hazard.”

A chameleon on one of the branches of the Christmas tree. (Photo from iStock royalty-free images.)

Candles and Open Flames

The warm, cozy glow of candles is a quintessential part of holiday ambiance. Candles are also given as gifts. However, open flames can be dangerous for pets, particularly inquisitive cats and dogs. Curious pets may knock over candles, resulting in fire hazards or even burns. Additionally, some scented candles contain essential oils that can be toxic to animals if ingested.

To address these concerns, Dr. Karen Turner, a veterinarian specializing in emergency medicine, recommends using flameless candles as a safe alternative. “Flameless candles provide the same cozy atmosphere without the risk of burns or fires. Keep candles and open flames out of your pet’s reach and never leave them unattended,” she says.

Wrapping Materials

The act of unwrapping presents can be as exciting for pets as it is for humans. However, the wrappings and ribbons can pose risks if ingested or played with. Ribbons and strings can lead to intestinal blockages or strangulation if swallowed or wrapped around a pet’s neck. Wrapping paper, on the other hand, may contain harmful inks or dyes.

“Supervise your pets during gift unwrapping, and promptly dispose of any wrapping materials to prevent ingestion,” advises Dr. Jessica Turner, a veterinarian and behavior specialist. “Consider using pet-safe, reusable gift bags or cloth wraps instead of traditional wrapping paper to reduce the risk of accidental ingestion.”

The holiday season is a time of joy and togetherness, and ensuring the safety and well-being of our pets should be a top priority. By being cautious about the types of Christmas gifts and decorations we bring into our homes, we can create a festive and pet-friendly environment that keeps our furry friends out of harm’s way. Remember, the love and companionship of our pets is one of those things that make the holidays truly special, so let’s celebrate in a way that keeps them safe and happy throughout the season.

About the Author: Mariana Burgos is a freelance artist. She has been a solo parent for 16 years now because she is wife to a desaparecido. She and her daughter are animal lovers and are active in advocating not only human rights but the rights of animals as well.

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