’Tis the season in B.C., and as British Columbians gear up to celebrate, the BC SPCA is reminding pet guardians that the holidays – and the colder weather – can be hazardous for pets.
“We want everyone to enjoy the holidays, including the furry members of your family,” says Lorie Chortyk, general manager of community relations for the BC SPCA.
Holiday pet safety tips include:
Bones are Bad: Avoid giving bones to your dogs or cats, particularly turkey bones. Poultry bones easily splinter and can cause serious injury, while bone fragments can cause intestinal blockages or lacerations.
Thoughtful Treats: Chocolate and other sweets should not be given to animals. Chocolate contains theobromine, a chemical that can be deadly to cats and dogs, though not harmful to humans. The best thing you can do for your pet over the holidays is to keep them on their regular diet. Look for healthy animal treats instead of giving your animal companions cookies, rich snacks or sweets meant for people.
Poisonous Plants: Many popular holiday plants are poisonous to animals including mistletoe, holly, ornamental pepper and Christmas rose. Remember to keep these plants out of reach of pets – especially birds. Poinsettias are not poisonous to pets or people. This has been a long-standing rumour perpetuated for decades. Some pets may have a sensitivity to the latex contained in the plant and may get diarrhea or vomit.
Tinsel is Trouble: Having a Christmas tree and pets can be troublesome. Ensure the tree is well-secured and try to place the decorations above paw height. Using string to hang decorations instead of hooks helps, as hooks can be easily dislodged. If possible, use non-breakable ornaments. Avoid using tinsel or angel hair – cats and dogs will ingest both, which can cause intestinal problems. Cords for lights should be made inaccessible to pets, especially chewing puppies and exploring kittens. If you add chemicals to the water reservoir of your Christmas tree to help it last longer, keep in mind those chemicals are toxic to animals and keep the reservoir covered.
Toy Watch: Avoid purchasing pet toys with small or soft pieces that can be chewed and swallowed. Nylon bones tend to splinter less than plastic ones. Be sure to inspect pet toys regularly and discard deteriorating ones.
As the holidays near, the temperature drops below freezing in many parts of the province, making the season not so merry for outdoor animals.
“Cold weather conditions can pose a serious risk to your pet,” says Lorie Chortyk, general manager of community relations for the BC SPCA. “Extra caution should be taken to ensure that your pet stays warm, safe and healthy this winter.”
Some cold weather safety tips:
• Make sure you thoroughly clean the pads of your pet’s paws after they’ve walked on sidewalks or roads to remove any coarse salt that can cause irritation. For your own sidewalk, choose a pet-friendly, non-corrosive de-icing compound readily available through retail outlets;
• Use pet-safe propylene-based antifreeze instead of ethylene glycol antifreeze, which is toxic to pets and wildlife. A mere tablespoon of ethylene glycol antifreeze can kill a cat or small dog;
• “Think and Thump” before starting your car. Cats and wildlife gravitate to warm engines during cold weather. Banging on the hood before getting into your car can avoid a tragic ending for an animal seeking refuge from the cold;
• The SPCA is vehemently opposed to keeping pets permanently outdoors and strongly urges pet guardians to keep animals inside during cold weather. However, if domestic or farm animals are kept outside, ensure they have access to shelter that is off the ground, provides protection from wind, cold and dampness and is properly insulated. Regular checks to ensure drinking water has not frozen over are also a must;
• Sadly, every community has many abandoned and free-roaming cats who are forced to fend for themselves. The struggle for survival becomes even more desperate when temperatures drop below freezing. Ensure your own cat is protected from the elements and be on the look-out for abandoned cats who need shelter, food, water or medical help.
“When the winter weather comes, we need to take extra care to ensure that our pets and the animals in our community are safe,” says Chortyk.
The British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is a not-for-profit organization reliant on public donations. Our mission is to protect and enhance the quality of life for domestic, farm and wild animals in B.C.