Friday, December 6, 2002

Ren Hallet took this photo of four miniature dachshund puppies posing by the holiday tree. Now Tora, Analii, Koa and Oscar will be featured in the Hawaiian Humane Society's 2003 Pets in Paradise calendar for the month of December. Calendars, at $10, are available while supplies last at the society's customer service counter. Proceeds from sales will help provide care for animals at the shelter.

Holiday safeguards
will keep pets safe

By Hawaiian Humane Society

Those who share their homes with companion animals know these furry and feathered friends add great joy to holiday celebrations. This time of year may also bring hidden dangers for pets. Take a moment to review these seasonal tips to keep your whole family safe and happy.

Deck the halls

Fragile holiday decorations placed too close to the floor or on the edge of a shelf can become hazardous if pets play with and break them.

Keep glass figurines, delicate ornaments and lighted candles well out of the reach of curious animals. Remember how far a dog's tail wags from side to side and how high a cat can jump.

Some holiday plants such as mistletoe and holly are harmful if an animal chews on them. Check with your veterinarian if you're not sure about your plants.

Trees sprout inside

Many pets find a holiday tree that appears inside the house irresistible. With a few precautions, you can prevent serious accidents. If you have a live tree, it's best to use plain water in the tree stand and cover the stand thoroughly with a tree skirt. Pine sap in the water makes an unhealthy drink for your pet, and additives such as aspirin and Tylenol that some believe can make a tree last longer can be extremely toxic to animals. Eating the needles of both real and artificial trees can cause intestinal blockage in pets, so vacuum often.

Large trees should be secured to a wall to prevent tipping. To keep cats from climbing the tree, hang citrus-scented ornaments, air fresheners or dryer sheets from the low branches next to the trunk. To prevent your enterprising cat from climbing all the way up, put a cone-shaped cardboard obstruction about halfway up the trunk.

If your pets are athletic, place the tree so they won't use a nearby table or shelf to launch themselves into the branches. You might want to consider a smaller tree that can be positioned on a tabletop, making it harder for your pets to topple or reach decorations.

Do you put wrapped presents under the tree days in advance? Place fragrant mystery packages out of reach. With their keen sense of smell, dogs know which packages contain food and may tear into boxes containing food that could make them sick.

Cats may be intrigued by the bows and ribbons, and while unwrapping the present, may ingest it or choke.

Sparkling lights

Keep your pets' health in mind when you decorate the tree. Read the labels of artificial snow sprays, and buy only those labeled nontoxic. Place unbreakable ornaments on the bottom branches. Avoid using edible decorations such as popcorn and candy canes, and don't trim the tree with tinsel, angel hair and garlands, since your pets could swallow pieces and end up with health problems.

Tuck electrical cords out of reach. Bored dogs, curious cats, teething pups and small mammals can be electrocuted by chewing them. "Bubbling" lights filled with methylene chloride can be mildly toxic. Before leaving pets home alone, unplug the holiday lights.

Family gatherings

The holiday season means more guests, parties and get-togethers. Put identification on pets' collars, and confine them to prevent escape with frequent door openings. Companion animals can feel as stressed as we do. Placing your pets in a quiet room will give them refuge. With some water, food and occasional visits from their human family, your pets will feel more relaxed.

Include your pets' favorite toys, and they'll have a party of their own. A reassuring hug and a few visits during the festivities will let your pets know you haven't forgotten them.

May I see your ID?

For added peace of mind for the holidays, consider getting microchip identification for your companion animals. With more visitors coming and going, your pets have a greater chance of slipping out the door unnoticed. Many can get out of their collars, so it's nice to know if they are found, their microchip ID will help them get home quickly.

A regular diet's a treat

Sudden changes in diet can cause stomach upset in pets. Even small so-called treats from human meals can do more harm than good. For example, onions can cause anemia in dogs, and chocolate can be fatal. An ounce of a 20-proof alcoholic beverage can put a small dog in a coma.

Both canines and felines can have difficulties with chicken and turkey bones, and the meat itself can pose serious health risks. Fatty meat scraps served to pets as "treats" can create gastric distress.

Maintain your pet's regular diet, and ask your guests not to feed the pets. It's also a good idea to secure your kitchen garbage in a cabinet during the holidays to prevent midnight raids. Keep pet treats handy for your pet's snacking.

Keep holidays happy

If your pet does get into something that upsets its stomach, call your veterinarian, and don't try to diagnose and treat the problem yourself. Pain relievers and human medicines are not designed for cats and dogs, so even a minimal human dose can poison a pet. Cats and dogs do not utilize and tolerate drugs in the same way people do -- human drugs should never be assumed to be safe for animals. Add your veterinarian's number to your emergency contact list near the phone to save time in case of an emergency.

Companion animals add much joy to the holidays, and your efforts to keep them safe will help keep them happy through the new year.

"Pet Ohana" runs the first and third Fridays of the month. The Hawaiian Humane Society is a nonprofit agency dedicated to preventing cruelty to animals. They are at 2700 Waialae Ave. Call 946-2187.

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