Published December 2, 2007 05:30 PM

Top 10 holiday survival tips for pets

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The holidays are a time for families and friends, and Lorraine Corriveau, a wellness veterinarian in Purdue University's School of Veterinary Medicine, cautions people not to forget about their animal friends.


Corriveau offers her top 10 list to help pets and owners make it through the holidays:

1. Visitors - Pets can become overexcited, confused or frightened by the onslaught of holiday guests. Keep pets in a quiet part of the house and make sure they have a safe retreat from children and well-intentioned visitors. Keep pets' beds or kennels in a safe place and be sure guests know it's off limits.

2. Chocolate - Chocolate, which contains theobromine, is a serious pet-poisoning risk, especially for dogs. Bittersweet and baking chocolate, the kinds found in kitchens during the holidays, contain more theobromine than the average candy bar. If a dog eats chocolate, call a veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center immediately.

3. Tinsel - Cats and kittens seem to find shiny tinsel especially appealing. If eaten, the thin pieces can cause the intestines to bunch up and can even cut through the intestinal wall. Either could be fatal.

4. Electric cords - Light strands, loose wires and electric cords can be a serious hazard to your pet. Some animals, especially puppies, may chew cords and put themselves at risk of serious burns or electric shock.

5. Noisemakers - To the sensitive ears of pets, fireworks, horns, bells and whistles can be extremely frightening. Make sure pets are in a safe place away from the noise and that they can't escape the house or yard. If fireworks are a particular problem around holidays, such as on New Year's Eve, talk to a veterinarian about getting some tranquilizers to help the pet.

6. Ornaments - Help prevent breaks and mishaps by keeping weighty ornaments close to the floor and valuable ornaments and family heirlooms out of reach of curious mouths, noses and wagging tails. Keep knickknacks on shelves inaccessible to animals. Tether Christmas trees to a nearby wall or window frame to protect for ferrets or cats that like to climb.

7. Candles - Candles should never be left burning unattended. Flames and shadows thrown by candles are tantalizing to pets. Make sure lit candles are always kept a safe distance away.

8. Decorative plants - Some plants and greenery, such as holly, ivy and mistletoe, can be very tempting but are toxic if a pet eats them. Keep all decorative plants out of reach or out of the home.

9. Overeating - Stick to a normal diet. Table scraps, garbage raiding and counter surfing can lead to an upset stomach. Too much rich food can lead to serious inflammation of the pancreas, which can be life-threatening.

10. New pets - There's no time worse than the holidays to bring a new pet into the home, but many people surprise a loved one with a new puppy or kitten on Christmas morning. The excitement can cause a new pet to be confused or overstimulated. Wait until the week after the holiday, and then puppy- or kitten-proof the house so the pet can be introduced into a quiet, safe environment. Don't forget to ask a veterinarian for advice on selecting a new pet


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