Pet Safety

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 seasonal 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.


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 to prevent pets from chewing on the cords.

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. 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 lap up a glass of beer. 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. 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.


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.

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


Give a homeless pet a home for the holidays. There are more than 1,000 animals awaiting adoption at Santa Barbara County Shelters. Visit the animals whose only wish this holiday season is for a home to call their own. Bring a little love home for the holidays. Adopt a shelter animal. Just remember that adopting an animal should not be a surprise for a friend or even your own family. Visit the shelter together. Decide on which animal to adopt together.

Visit a County Shelter today

Santa Barbara: 5473 Overpass Road, Goleta, CA 93117 • Telephone: (805) 681-5285

Lompoc: 1501 West Central Avenue, Lompoc, CA 93436 • Telephone: (805) 737-7755

Santa Maria: 548 W. Foster Road, Santa Maria, CA 93455 • Telephone: (805) 934-6119

Adoptable Pet of Week

Snorkel is a lovely little pooch with a very sensitive soul. This Chi mix has an incredibly smooth silky coat and a very soft belly. He is sweet as they come, but also has a few minor issues. He does not like to share affection or his much treasured “lap time” with other dogs. While he gets along okay with the other dogs in little dog land, he really needs to be the only pet in the household. He would probably be best in an adult household but might be all right with gentle kids over 12 years old. He would be very happy to be included in all daily activities. He gets very anxious and upset if put in a crate or kennel. He’s happy to sleep on his bed on the floor when the other dogs are put in

individual kennels at night. He would most certainly benefit from some dog training. Snorkel desperately wants to get out of the shelter and become an important part of a real

family. He’ll be a very loving, loyal companion.

To inquire about adopting Snorkel, visit DAWG in Santa Barbara. DAWG (Dog Adoption and Welfare Group) is a no-kill not for profit dog rescue/adoption organization

located at 5480 Overpass Road in Goleta. For more information, call 805-

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.

Lisa Acho Remorenko is executive director of Animal Adoption Solutions,


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