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Holidays offer many dangerous temptations, so pet owners should practice these safety tips

The holidays can bring with them a whole host of temping dangers for your family pet, from the Christmas tree, to gift wrapping accessories, to leftover holiday treats.
Jennifer Ahrens
Connecticut Public
The holidays can present a lot of tempting dangers for your family pet, from the Christmas tree to gift-wrapping accessories to leftover holiday treats.

The holidays can bring with them a whole host of temping dangers for your family pet, from the Christmas tree to gift-wrapping accessories to leftover holiday treats.

Dr. Caroline Maguire, the emergency department director at Central Hospital For Veterinary Medicine in North Haven, said her hospital sees a higher number of emergencies around the holidays.

She said there are two big reasons for that. One, a family’s primary veterinary clinic is often closed or under reduced hours during the holidays. Two, pets have increased opportunities to get into trouble when homes are full of new decorations and new people.

Maguire said her clinic sees a lot of cases of pets ingesting things they shouldn’t. “Tinsel and ribbons are a big one, especially in cats,” she said.

Decorating your home in holiday lights also comes with its own dangers. “We see electrical injuries and electrocution from chewing on those cords,” Maguire said.

The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends unplugging decorations while you're not around.

Even if you are in the house, it doesn’t mean you're paying attention to what your pet is doing.

When you are entertaining friends and family, Maguire suggested confining your pet to a safe space, like a crate or room you know is picked up.

Human food is for humans, not pets

Dr. Maguire also recommends not giving your pets human food as a holiday treat. She said fatty foods can cause problems with a pet's pancreas and gastrointestinal tract.

Also, don’t give your dog any kind of leftover bone. “They can lead to things like breaking teeth, get stuck in the intestinal tract and cause impactions,” she added.

Prepare now for an emergency

Even if you take all the precautions to keep your pets safe, emergencies can still happen.

Maguire recalled her most bizarre holiday emergency.

“They were doing a Santa photoshoot, and he [the dog] reached over and pulled the whole Santa hat off of his family member and ingested that,” she said. “So, that was an interesting holiday emergency surgery to remove the Santa hat.”

That’s why it’s good for pet owners to have a care plan should a surprise emergency arise.

Dr. Matt Kornatowski, vice president of the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Association, said pet owners should “know where your nearest emergency facilities are and then expand that search a little bit and be prepared to travel to those areas.”

Before you drive to an emergency room, “calling ahead to see what kind of wait times are available can be very helpful for you and for the clinics,” he said.

Kornatowski said that if you do have a pet emergency, be prepared to wait (depending on the severity of your situation). The veterinary industry is dealing with a nationwide staffing shortage.

Jennifer Ahrens is a producer for Morning Edition. She spent 20+ years producing TV shows for CNN and ESPN. She joined Connecticut Public Media because it lets her report on her two passions, nature and animals.
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