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Decking the halls with … holiday pet hazards!

It’s that time again. Time for holiday decorating. Twinkling lights, glittering ornaments and shiny garlands create a magical ambiance in your home that’s warm and inviting. But for our pets? Not so much!

Holiday greenery and decorations are almost irresistible to many dogs and cats, just begging to be chewed, licked, or swallowed.

Traditional holiday decorations can unintentionally become hazards for your dog or cat. As you create your holiday wonderland, approach your decorating scheme from your pet’s point of view to keep them happy and safe throughout the season.

Live Christmas trees

Nothing can compare to the wonderful fragrance of a fresh-cut evergreen. While the tree itself isn’t harmful to cats or dogs, it can easily tip over if a curious cat attempts to climb the branches or your puppy decides that those lower branches look amazingly similar to the sticks he was playing with in the yard.

If possible, anchor your tree to a wall or door frame to prevent it from tipping.

Adding sugar, aspirin or commercially-available preservation products to the water reservoir may prolong the life of your tree, but these additives can be toxic to both dogs and cats if they drink it.

If you decide to use products such as these, be sure to read the label to make sure it’s pet-safe.

Tinsel, garland and flocking

They’re sparkly, they’re beautiful, they’re the perfect accent for your perfectly-decorated tree. And they’re really tempting to curious animals, especially cats.

Although ingested tinsel or garland may pass unimpeded through your dog or cat’s system, it can also cause intestinal blockage that requires immediate, and often costly, surgery.

Flocking (aka fake snow) gives the impression of freshly fallen snow; unfortunately those snow-covered branches just might look like fluffy chew toys to your dog or cat.

Electric extension cords and wires

Because we all love lights, and plenty of them, it’s no surprise that electric extension cords and wires make our hit parade of holiday pet hazards. A necessary evil, extension cords and strands of coated wire that connect the light sets on your tree are guaranteed to pique the curiosity of most pets, but especially puppies and kittens. If they happen to chew or bite one of these wires, your pet may receive a potentially deadly electrical shock. Try to position extension cords away from easily reached outlets and monitor your puppy or kitten when they’re in the vicinity of lighted trees or other decorations.

Festive plants and flowers

What would the holidays be without a poinsettia or bunch of mistletoe? For your pets, it might be a lot safer. While poinsettias are not as toxic to pets as once thought, exposure to the white milky sap in their stems may cause diarrhea or an upset stomach.

Christmas cactuses are not poisonous per se, but chewing their leaves may cause an upset stomach or allergic reaction in some pets. Plants like mistletoe and holly create more serious gastrointestinal problems, especially when eaten in large quantities. If you opt to make live plants part of your holiday dÈcor this season, be sure to place them out of reach, especially if your have curious cats who are prone to plant eating! If you suspect your pet has eaten one of these plants, consult your veterinarian for treatment.

With a bit of advance planning, your pets can enjoy the holidays as much as you do. I know my dogs can hardly wait to see what special treats will be in their stockings!

Sue Williams is a lifelong pet enthusiast. She has been actively involved in animal rescue, dog performance sports, responsible pet ownership and animal advocacy for more than 20 years. She can be contacted at altoonapets@gmail.com.

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