The holiday season is busy and joyous. It is packed with events that bring together family and friends and provide opportunities for fun and love for everyone in the household, including pets and young children. But, just as the holidays can present dangers like overindulgence and stress for adults, there are significant dangers for pets and kids.
For pets, dangers can be present in a variety of places. Holiday decorations, including tinsel, ribbon, and ornaments, present choking hazards and can become lodged in the digestive tract. Electrical cords, lights, and candles create opportunities for burns or electrocution of curious pets. Holiday plants, such as poinsettia, pine needles, holly, mistletoe, lilies, and daffodils at poisonous to pets, who may chew on new foliage while investigating it.
The food and beverage consumption of the season can also create dangers. Chocolate (particularly dark chocolate), xylitol, nuts, onion, and garlic can all cause illness for cats and dogs. Alcohol is extremely hazardous to pets, and may be quite appealing in some forms (I don’t know about yours, but I’m pretty sure my dogs would drink spiked eggnog). While bones and fat might seem to be special treats, too much fatty food can cause pancreatic distress, and cooked bones may splinter and present a choking hazard.
Treats and toys purchased for pets also need to be carefully watched. Cat toys may be too small for dogs in the house, thus creating chances for choking or a need for surgical removal. Dog toys can be dangerous to dogs if not appropriate to the level of chewing engaged in by that particular pet. Rawhide and other treat chews can be dangerous if consumed too quickly or with too great of frequency.
The hustle and bustle of the season may also make it more likely that hazards such as medications being left available to pets, doors or gates being open, etc. are not monitored. Pet needs (walking, keeping warm, medications) may also be harder to monitor in the business of the celebrations.
Hazards for toddlers and young children are, in many cases, similar to those for pets. Decorations can be placed in mouths by curious toddlers (even the lights on a tree can easily be removed from the strand and swallowed). The increase in cords strung around rooms may encourage play with electrical sockets or items.
Many holiday toys and items have small batteries, which can also be a choking hazard and are extremely dangerous if they are swallowed (swallowing of button batteries is a relatively common pediatric emergency). Toys may also have small parts or have been recalled after purchase.
Food and beverage items such as hard candy, nuts, and alcohol must be monitored carefully. Even the rich foods of the holiday celebrations can take a toll on little tummies. Caffeine in sodas and chocolate can be a problem for children, as well, and may be less monitored with many adults around to provide treats to eager little ones.
Candles, ovens in use, busy stovetops, and roaring fires create potential for burns to curious hands. And, with children as well, the presence of many people in the house may make normal childproofing – like shutting doors and gates, putting away medications, etc. – more challenging.
With all of these dangers, it’s a wonder that adults can have any fun during the holiday season. The key is to bring yourself to the level of the child/pet, figure out what the potential dangers are, and then develop strategies to eliminate or reduce them. It’s much preferable to have a plastic Christmas lily than to have a sickened pet, and if there can’t be as much ambiance from burning candles to keep Junior safe, everyone will still manage to have a good time.
Happy holidays and be careful out there.
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