Winter is coming!  The heat of the summer is off.  The leaves from fall are all gone.  We're not so worried about ticks and fleas.  Our pets are safe and cozy inside the house, right?  Not so fast!  Now, it's more important than ever to be careful about the dangers in and around our home.

Even if your pet enjoys the holidays, remember that all of that activity can be stressful. Parties and visitors can increase the risk of a pet escape.  Make sure all of your pets are microchipped or have collars and IDs.  Make a "safe space" for your pet that includes water, food, bed, litter box and scratching post. Some soothing music is nice. You can even use some friendly pheromones to keep kitty calm.  Just remember to keep burning candles out of the room!  They are a fire hazard any time of the year.

Christmas lights and extension wires look like great toys, especially for young animals! Last year my niece's pup put the houselights out at least once!  Luckily, she only tripped the circuit breaker. But, wires can be deadly.  Inexpensive foam insulators can be purchased at your local hardware store.  Remember to keep breakable ornaments out of reach!

Since cats usually have more discriminating tastes, dogs are more often the victims of poisoning. However, it can happen to your cats.  Be prepared for a poison emergency!  Watch for signs of poisoning which include:

  • stumbling/staggering/lethargy
  • rapid breathing or breathing difficulty,
  • vomiting and or diarrhea, 
  • seizure.

Poisoning can be difficult to diagnose, unless you witness the exposure.  Make sure you have your Vet's number handy as well as a Poison Control number. If you don't know the number in your area, here are a few emergency numbers in the US: 

  • National Poison Control  - 800-222-1222 - No charge
  • ASPCA  - 888-426-4435 -They will charge $55 to your credit card
  • Animal Poison Hotline  -  888-232-8870  -They will charge $35 to your credit card
  • KansasState University - 785-532-5679 - No charge

In addition to these numbers, there is usually a number on the bottle or container of the suspected poison.  The customer hotline people have lots of experience with their own products.  They can help you determine how to proceed with your emergency treatment.  Stop and access the situation.  If your pet vomited or has diarrhea, collect a sample and take it with you when you go to the vet. 

If your vet or Poison Control has instructed you to induce vomiting, the recommended method is 1 teaspoon of peroxide per 10 lbs.  (Most cats = 1½ teaspoons).  If you have no peroxide available, a packet of table salt is the next acceptable alternative. (The kind you get at fast food restaurants are ok). Place as far back in kitty's mouth as possible.  You can repeat this once.  Remember to induce vomiting ONLY when instructed by your vet.  If your pet has eaten a caustic substance, vomiting will do more harm than good.  It's also a good idea to buy some activated charcoal to put into your emergency kit. 

Be careful with cleaning supplies as your pets can walk through them.  Of course those paws wind up in their mouths!   Recently, there were stories that pets were poisoned by Swiffer floor mops.  However, according to, the reports of the demise of pets are completely false.  Still, I would use caution with any chemicals.

Kitties can have a sweet tooth, too.  Anti-freeze has a sweet taste, but it will poison your pet.  If you have a dog, don't let him drink water near the curb when you're out for a stroll.  That's where most of the spills from cars occur. 

Most people know that chocolate is bad for dogs, especially baking chocolate.  The chocolate mulch sold in garden supply centers can be toxic.  Although your neighbour's lab might relish the thought of chowing down on it, I doubt that any self-respecting kitty would touch it.  If you have ever tasted chocolate soap, I can assure you that it tastes nothing like candy!  Artificial sweeteners are bad for your pets, too.  Don't let your pets near the diet candy!

While we're talking about food, I admit that I slip a bit of turkey to the critters.  However, the bones and skin are no-no's.  Onions can cause a certain type of anaemia in cats. Grease can cause upset tummies, and certain dogs have digestive problems when they eat turkey.  So, it's best to tell everybody to keep the scraps on the plate. 

Keep an eye on the plants.  I don't remember the last time I saw a kitty dining on a Poinsettia, but they can cause serious gastric upsets!  Before you decorate, check to see if the plant is toxic. 

As for the Christmas tree, don't let your pets drink water from the tree.  It can cause a really bad belly-ache.  Oh, and please make sure you have that tree secured.  Not that my angels have ever done it, but some cats love to climb to the top and knock off all of the ornaments and send the tree crashing to the ground and ... well, I've heard stories.

If your cat won't leave your tree alone, you can try:  aluminum foil around the base, mothballs, a spray bottle of water, fencing the tree, or give up and let them decorate.

Make your holiday a safe one! 


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