There may be one or two you haven’t thought of…
We all know how wonderful the holidays can be…the lights, decorations, family and friends, the smells of freshly baked goodies and a delicious holiday feast. We all love our bunnies, guinea pigs and other small furry companions; while they are a part of our family, the lights, sounds and smells of the season can make this a stressful time for them. Here are some tips to help keep them safe and healthy:
- No human food! Resist the temptation to share your holiday treats with your pets. Foods not normally part of their diet can cause allergic reactions, diarrhea, and can even be fatal (as with chocolate). Keep healthy pet treats available on Christmas Eve: a bit of apple, some fresh herbs, or thin carrot sticks. Avoid gas-producing foods such as cabbage, cauliflower or broccoli.
- Many holiday plants are extremely toxic to your pets, including (but not limited to) pine needles, poinsettia, holly and mistletoe berries, amaryllis, Christmas rose, and lilies. Put the plants out of reach (this may mean putting them in a different room as small pets can be determined and agile).
- Holiday lights, tinsel, “angel hair”, and other decorations make for a festive holiday but present dangers to your pets if not kept out of reach. Rabbits and rodents enjoy chewing on electrical cords: keep the cords out of reach, cover them with PVC tubing, or place an exercise pen(s) around the decorations or around the pet. Forget the tinsel and pick up ribbons and wrapping paper which can create a life-threatening intestinal blockage if ingested.
- Visiting with family and friends is a blessing for you but the altered routine and strange sounds and smells are a huge stressor for your pets. People going in and out of the house provide many opportunities for escape. For the safety and happiness of your pet, keep them in a quiet, secure exercise pen or other enclosure (or just in a separate room with closed door). Make sure they have comfortable bedding, fresh food and water and their favorite, familiar toys. Give them extra attention periodically throughout the day. Many pets enjoy a radio at low volume, tuned to soft, classical music or light jazz, or holiday music.
- Make sure family and guests don’t leave out their medication bottles where small, gnawing pets can carry them off (the bottles, not the guests). A rabbit or rodent could chew into a plastic medication bottle rapidly and easily ingest Grandma Betty’s heart medication or Uncle Paul’s vicodin for his bad back.
- If your rabbit is free range, be mindful of where you hide your presents. Just because the kids can’t find the gifts doesn’t mean the rabbit or cat or ferret can’t! You don’t want to have to buy a new sweater for your daughter on Christmas eve night because your rabbit decided to nest in the first one, or worse, ate some of it and now needs to be rushed to the emergency clinic.
- The risk posed by small children: well-meaning small hands can squeeze a little too hard or drop a pet, resulting in paralysis, or death. Don’t risk it. Explain and reinforce to the smallest children that Flopsy cannot be handled as she is nervous about all the unfamiliar activities and may nip (or whatever works for you); older children might sit on the floor with the pet in the enclosure, depending on the temperament of the child and the temperament of the pet.
- Eccentric pet owners such as myself, sometimes enjoy dressing their pet up at the holidays; this is fine for a quick snapshot (as long as your pet is not frightened or otherwise upset at this) but more than a couple of minutes in a costume/hat may stress out the pet or provoke the pet to take a bite out of the costume and either choke on it or ingest it and risk intestinal blockage. Keep the costume-wearing minimal.
Your pet is part of the family and should be included in the happiness of the Christmas season, but be aware of the dangers and pet stressors that accompany the season’s festivities. Be aware of the hazards; as the guardians of our pets, we are responsible for their safety and well-being. Make sure to keep the holiday season as enjoyable for your pet as it is for you and the rest of your family.
If the worst happens, here are the veterinary emergency clinics in Dayton:
The Dayton Emergency Veterinary Clinic
2714 Springboro Pike West
Dayton, OH 45439
1 (800) 289-1165
Dayton Care Center – Animal Emergency & Critical Care
6405 Clyo Rd
Centerville, Ohio 45459
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