Tips for pet safety during the holidays

It's the holiday season and that means visitors, decorations and lots of food. All of which is fun for humans but might be stressful or even dangerous to your pets. Here are some tips to make this a safe and fun holiday for your four-legged family members.

Food, the center of all holiday gatherings

Many human foods can cause intestinal distress or may even be poisonous to our animal friends. This list includes:

• chocolate – remember that dark chocolate is more dangerous than milk chocolate.

• any food sweetened with xylitol

• coffee and caffeine

• grapes and raisins

• macadamia nuts

• milk and dairy products

• onions, garlic and chives (cats are more susceptible than dogs but dogs are at risk if large amounts are consumed)

• yeast dough (may rise in the stomach which can lead to gastric torsion)

Holiday food tends to be rich and full of fat, so go easy on treating the pooch to these foods. Too much fat can lead to problems, including pancreatitis, which will put you at the emergency clinic with your pet for the holidays.

Think before decorating

Christmas trees should be securely anchored so that curious pets can't knock it over. Also, don't let them drink the water, especially if you've put in any additives such as fertilizer.

Tinsel is hard for cats to resist, especially when it moves and catches the light. But ingesting it can land them in the emergency room with an obstructed digestive tract.

Small ornaments and decorations can be tempting to dogs, especially to youngsters who, just like human babies, explore their world with their mouths.

Many holiday plants can be troublesome and even poisonous to pets, including Amaryllis, mistletoe, balsam, pine, cedar, holly and poinsettias. Check the ASPCA's website for a complete list. Get a full list of toxic and non-toxic plants at

If you're a crafty person and make your own decorations, be sure to put away the sewing needles and thread as pets, especially cats, have been known to swallow these.

Safety first

If you'll be traveling for the holidays and bringing your animal companion along, make sure they are secured in the vehicle. There are many doggie seatbelts available and cats should be in carriers. If an accident were to happen this will prevent your animal from running from the scene. It also keeps your pet secure when you get in and out of the car.

If you'll be hosting guests at your home, make sure they know not to let your dog or cat outside without your permission. It's also best to keep your pet secured while welcoming guests at the door – it's easy for them to slip out.

Make sure to set up a safe space for your pet, especially if your pet is shy or fearful. All the holiday commotion can be stressful on your animal companion so give them a place to get away from it all and make sure your guests respect this space.

Ask your guests to keep anything potentially troublesome, such as medications, out of your pet's reach.

We checked in with Pet Emergency Treatment and they confirmed that they have seen cases from food-related emergencies to emergencies caused by decorations during the holidays. So keep your holidays safe and enjoyable by keeping your pets safe.

But just in case something does happen, here are important numbers:

• ASPCA Animal Poison Control Hotline (statewide), (888) 426-4435

• Anchorage Pet Emergency Treatment, 2320 E. Dowling, 907-519-6588

• Diamond Animal Hospital and Emergency Services, 2545 E. Tudor Rd. (Anchorage), 907-562-8384

Laura Atwood is a Public Relations Coordinator for Anchorage Animal Care and Control.

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