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Protect your pets: safety tips for the holidays
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Air Force Staff Sgt. Keyia Evans holds her four-month-old American Pitt Bull Terrier, Diamond, while Army Captain Reid Katagihara, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson veterinarian, gives the animal an exam at the Veterinary Treatment Facility, Nov. 29. Pets are an important member of the family and they have special safety needs during the holiday season. (Photo by Air Force Capt. Ashley Norris/477th Fighter Group PAO)
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Protect your pets: safety tips for the holidays

Posted 12/3/2010   Updated 12/3/2010 Email story   Print story


by Air Force Capt. Ashley Norris
477th Fighter Group PAO

12/3/2010 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Safety is always a top priority, however we sometimes forget our four-legged and feathered friends have special safety needs during the holiday season. Here are a few tips to make sure they enjoy the holiday season as much as you do.

The holidays are the season for overindulging, we cook more and this creates more opportunities for pets to get themselves into trouble by counter surfing, eating human food carelessly left out and eating too much, said Army Capt. Reid Katagihara, the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson veterinarian.

Pets need to stick to their regular diets and not eat human food, said Katagihara. Dogs like to eat chicken and turkey bones and, in the process, the bones can break. These bones are really sharp and can puncture through stomachs and intestines, he said.

Pets thrive on routines, so try to keep their schedule for feeding, grooming, playing and walking as close to normal as possible. Changes in a pet's routine may cause stress. When stressed, some dogs pant more and in turn drink more water, so make sure to always have fresh water available.

Parties and guests entering and exiting the house allow the opportunity for animals to try to escape. Make sure your dog or cat always wears its collar with ID tags and put your pet in a secure area.

Holiday decorations are fraught with dangers. Make sure Christmas trees are secure and won't tip over, Katagihara said. Attach trees to the ceiling or wall with rope or wire.

Also, be careful about extension and electrical cords; pets can chew through them and get shocked, said Katagihara.

Cats especially are attracted to tinsel, Katagihara said. They play and eat the tinsel or ribbon and it "can get caught and get stuck, but the rest of it moves along in their intestinal tract and the string will cut through their intestines."

Katagihara said the tinsel will have to be removed surgically and it isn't recommended for pet households.

Many holiday plants make pets sick, such as mistletoe, poinsettias, lilies and holly. So opt for a silk arrangement that you can use year after year; it's good for the environment and for your pets.

Snow globes sometimes contain antifreeze, which is also found around cars and garages and crystallizes the kidneys, preventing them from working and is deadly, Katagihara said. Bubbling lights may contain dangerous chemicals and snow sprays can cause reactions when inhaled; so find suitable and safer replacements for these potential hazards.

Another thing to consider is the low temperatures this time of year, Katagihara said. Owners need to be careful of cold injuries such as frostbite on appendages (tongue, nose, ears, tail and feet).

"In general, cats probably shouldn't be outside this time of year. I definitely recommend that dogs not be kept outside, especially on colder nights," Katagihara said.

Some larger dogs may be acclimated to the cold, but all outside dogs should have fresh, clean water and shelter from the wind, rain and snow. He said water bowls kept outside will freeze, and it is critical for pets to have liquid water.

Take a few minutes to pet safety-proof your holiday season so everybody in your family, both two and four-legged family members, can ring in the New Year happy and healthy.

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