Holiday Hazards

Keep Your Pets Safe and Happy This Holiday Season

The holidays are a time for celebration. However, before you start enjoying yourself, first make sure your pets are safe from dangers. Here are some tips to ensure the safety of your pets during the holidays and give you the peace of mind to enjoy yourself.


According to Kathy Wahlers at the Pet Poison Helpline, poinsettia plants get a bad rap, but they are only mildly toxic to pets. She says that holiday bouquets containing lilies, holly, or mistletoe are far more worrisome. Be sure to keep these plants well out of the reach of animals in your home, or consider using artificial versions. “Lilies, including tiger, Asiatic, stargazer, Easter and day lilies, are the most dangerous plants for cats,” said Dr. Ahna Brutlag, assistant direct of Pet Poison Helpline. “The ingestion of one to two leaves or flower petals is enough to cause sudden kidney failure in cats.” Other yuletide pants such as holly berries and mistletoe can also be toxic to pets and can cause gastrointestinal upset and even heart arrhythmias if ingested.


Decorations such as tinsel, glass ornaments, and garlands can easily attract pets, but are dangerous because they are choking hazards. Tinsel is especially tempting to cats, who see bright shiny strings as something to be played with. The Pet Poison Hotline cautions that although tinsel does not pose a poisoning risk, it can cause severe damage to a cat’s intestinal tract if swallowed. Ultimately, cats run the risk of severe injury to, or rupture of, their intestines and treatment involves expensive abdominal surgery.

Electric decorations such as stringed lights can brighten a room, but unfortunately can also give your pets a shock should they chew on the wires. Keep decorations out of their reach, or at the very least, spray electrical cords with bitter-apple spray (which pets don’t like). Whether using a cut or live tree, keep the water stand covered to prevent accidents as the water for the live tree may contain fertilizers or bacteria. Avoid using aspirin in the water for your cut tree if you have a cat, as aspirin is highly toxic to cats. Also, don’t let pine needles accumulate on the floor, as these needles can perforate the intestinal lining of dogs and cats. Additionally, trees should be tethered to a wall or the ceiling to prevent them from falling on pets (or humans for that matter).

Do your gift wrapping on an elevated surface, where your pets can’t get into (and consequently eat) string, paper, and ribbons that can cause intestinal blockages.

Recently, imported snow globes were found to contain antifreeze (ethylene glycol). According to the Pet Poison Hotline, as little as one teaspoon of antifreeze when ingested by a cat, or a tablespoon for a dog (depending on their size), can be fatal. Signs of early poisoning include acting drunk or uncoordinated, excessive thirst, and lethargy. While signs may seem to improve after eight to 12 hours, internal damage is actually worsening, and crystals develop in the kidneys resulting in acute kidney failure.


It’s one thing to give your dog a taste of pumpkin pie, but it’s another to let him indulge in a turkey leg and some beer. Drinks such as alcoholic beverages can be toxic to pets if ingested. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), because alcohol is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, it affects pets quickly. Ingestion of alcohol can cause dangerous drops in blood sugar, blood pressure, and body temperature. Intoxicated animals can experience seizures and respiratory failure. And you may want to skip sharing the turkey since poultry bones can splinter and cause blockages. Foods containing grapes, raisins, and currents (such as fruit cake) can result in kidney failure in dogs. Chocolate and cocoa contain theobromine, a chemical highly toxic to dogs and cats. Ingestion in small amounts can cause vomiting and diarrhea but large amounts can cause seizures and heart failure. Many sugarless gums and candies contain xylitol, a sweetener that is toxic to dogs. It causes a life-threatening drop in blood sugar and liver failure.


According to the ASPCA, one of the most common holiday-related emergencies is the consumption of human pharmaceuticals. Make sure all your medications are securely locked away from pets and children, and be sure to tell your guests to keep their meds zipped up and packed away, too.


The unusual commotion of the holiday season can be stressful on animals as well as humans. Put your pets in a quiet room or quiet area of the house when guests are visiting. Soothing music helps not only humans, but animals as well. If possible, put on a nice, relaxing CD to calm your pet. Even though we’re all busy around the holidays, don’t forget to give your pets some attention. Try to keep your pets on their regular eating and exercise schedules. Leave a note on the front door reminding visitors not to allow your pet to run out of the house. Nothing puts a damper on festivities like turning a holiday party into a search party.


Unless it’s absolutely necessary to travel with your pet, leave them at home. It’s best to find a friend or pet sitter to come to your home to take care of your pets. Post your veterinarian’s phone number in a prominent location, like your refrigerator. This provides easy access to necessary information for your pet sitter, should a problem arise. Before traveling with your pets by car or plane, make sure they have all the required vaccinations and are wearing identification tags or are microchipped.

If you’re traveling by car, be sure to secure your pet safely with a seatbelt harness, crate, or barrier and make frequent stops, allowing pets time to exercise and relieve themselves. Too many accidents happen in cargo areas, so if you must fly with your pet, it’s best to have them secured in a carrier, underneath your seat. Make sure to be prepared at the airport. Animals traveling in carriers must be removed from those carriers when going through security. Make sure your pet has a harness and a leash to keep them from running and proper ID to ensure they get returned to you if something should happen.

By following these tips, both you and your pet will enjoy a happier and healthier holiday season!


K-9 Pals Free Dog Wash Fund Raiser. On December 20, K-9 PALS, Inc. (K-9 Placement and Assistance League) will be holding a free dog wash in conjunction with Wripples Warm Water Pet Spa at Arroyo Burro Beach Park (Hendry’s). This event is a K-9 PALS fund raiser to help provide care and medical assistance to the dogs at the Santa Barbara County Animal Shelter.

The pet wash stations will be running for free from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. A K-9 PALS representative will be there to help wash your dog if needed, otherwise all the supplies are provided and you can give your best friend a wash for free after a fun walk on the beach.

Bathing your dog regularly is an important part of responsible pet ownership. A clean dog is a happy dog-and one who’s likely to receive more love and attention. Plus, regular baths may help prevent skin disease, saving you money on veterinary bills.

K-9 PALS, Inc. mission is to promote adoptions and fostering, provide humane care, and to act as advocate for the dogs of the Santa Barbara County Animal Shelter. K-9 PALS has more than 100 volunteers caring for the animals and assists in the adoption of over 300 dogs per year. K-9 PALS main source of revenue is donations.

To make a tax deductable donation, a bequest in your will, or for more information, contact K-9 PALS Inc., 681-4369,,


Adoptable Pet of the Week

Marty is a three-year-old, neutered male bull mastiff and/or American bulldog mix, 80 lbs. A loveable clown, his goal in life is to sit in your lap. Loves kids, and has a sweet disposition, excellent house manners, follows directions, knows basic obedience. Needs only moderate exercise (no marathons). He can get jealous of other dogs for affection in the household, so he needs to be an only dog.

DAWG (Dog Adoption and Welfare Group) is a no-kill not for profit dog rescue/adoption organization located at 5480 Overpass Rd .in Goleta. For more information, call 681-0561. You can view more adoptable dogs at The public is invited to stop by and look around every day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. DAWG relies on volunteers to take care of all the dogs, so if you love dogs, think about volunteering! Students are able to fulfill their volunteer community service requirement by volunteering. Volunteer orientations are generally held every other Saturday at 10 a.m.. Contact DAWG for the next meeting.


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