Christmas, the time to be joyous and an occasion to spend quality time with your family including your much-loved pets. It is also a time of year when these pets can become seriously sick or injured; many succumb to death. Let’s see if we can take some precautions to avoid such a tragedy.

The holidays are the time of year when pets seem to get themselves into the most trouble. We can avoid some of these tragedies by being more diligent watching over them and taking some additional safety measures. It seems like with pets or children the more people around the more likely nobody is watching them; when we think they’re safe because we feel everyone is watching them.

Chocolate toxicity is a big problem during the holiday season. Many people give chocolate as gifts and many people put goodies out on plates for guests. Theobromine and caffeine are the culprits in chocolate. The main animals affected by chocolate are cats, dogs, birds, and skunks. ALL animals can get very ill and or die from consuming chocolate. Symptoms range from vomiting to restlessness to a pet being comatose or have grand mal seizures.

Other dangers include plant toxicity, strangulation on tinsel, consumption of glass from ornaments, consumption of alcohol, poultry bones and a wide variety of other items that may not be around the rest of the year. Tinsel can be lodged in the intestines and cause compaction, strangulation and even shred the intestinal lining. Simple cellophane can interact with digestive fluids, become sharp like glass, and can cut up the gastronomical system. Rich foods served during the holiday season, most exotic pets can’t handle these foods. With many exotic pets a varied diet is not good, stick to the food they are used to. Even parrots should not have fat, rich, or sweet foods, but should have a varied diet, human foods that are healthy for us.

Rubber bands are often introduced into the holidays often as a fast fix for a potential calamity. Pet owners who enjoy dressing up their pet may use a rubber band to keep an article of clothing in place. The pet may chew at the rubber band removing it and potentially choking on it or causing intestinal blockages or injury.

I love to use candles on Christmas Eve it adds warmness to the occasion. Candles can cause a multitude of dangers to a pet. First the wrapping on the candles can act as a razor if swallowed (see cellophane above). Birds can fly into a lit candle and become seriously burned. Most any pet can knock a candle down getting burned, and in the process causing a potential horrible disaster for the whole family.

Poinsettia is a non-poisonous plant; let the poinsettia enjoy the limelight of Christmas. You will still hear that the poinsettia is poisonous - according to, poison index system (POISINDEX) and it isn’t. It also isn’t an edible plant if enough leaves are consumed it can cause vomiting (500 leaves for a small child). With intense testing in several separate studies no part of the poinsettia plant is poisonous or toxic.

Mistletoe a parasite bush that grows in trees; the berries are highly poisonous. Think of the number of exotic pets or dogs and cats that would have fun playing with those berries. The Christmas holly plants are poisonous. Anytime an animal ingests something poisonous or toxic contact a veterinarian. Do not induce vomiting it can often do more harm than good. Only do so if a veterinarian instructs you to do so.

Pets will most likely survive a disaster but all too many times families and pets are separated forever. Many people travel with their pets. The pet may become frightened and flee. There is a way to determine which pet belongs to what family. Make sure your pet has a microchip. This includes birds. The bird's leg band should also be recorded. A photograph should be taken of all your pets and stored in a safe place. It doesn't hurt to make a complete file on all your pets. The file should include medical information, pictures, identification numbers, and a written description of unique markings. Have two copies of the files, keep one in a safe place, and give another to a family member in another city or state.

Always be ready for a fire or any other disaster that may occur. Have crates ready to use not stuffed three feet under the junk in the garage, ready to go NOW! Each mature member of the family should have a pre-assigned chore lest of fire. REHEARSE this plan repeatedly. When the young children are safe, the people in charge of the pets should crate them and get them out of the house. If you cannot get them out, crate them and put wet blankets over the crates. Get a sign to hang outside of your house (now, not during fire) small animals inside or CAGED animals inside. Caged animals stand little chance of survival. ABOVE all else, have a smoke alarm with fresh batteries and a carbon monoxide tester. Make sure you plug those batteries back in after you burn your toast in the morning! Change the batteries at least twice a year. Our detector is an electric smoke/carbon monoxide tester.

I lost a son to carbon monoxide poisoning. I had a smoke detector but back in those days I wasn’t aware of a carbon monoxide poisoning. Do your family, including your pets a favor and buy one for your family’s safety and peace of mind. You can purchase one from your local Walmart store or order one quick and simply from Amazon; there is some very decent prices.

A representative from Night Hawk contacted me shortly after my son died. The tragedy had made national news. They were kind and considerate. They also taught me a great deal about carbon monoxide. I learned it came from a whole lot of sources and most anyone could be subjected to it. They also sent me a free Night Hawk carbon monoxide tester. Thank you Night Hawk.

Kidde Battery Powered Night Hawk Combination Smoke/CO Alarm with Voice/Alarm Warning

Another item that should be close at hand is a fire extinguisher. I have one in four places, our kitchen, car, boat, and garage. I have used one once and I was so glad it was there.

Kidde 466204 Pro 10 Fire Extinguisher

A helpful website is the FEMA's website here you will find advice and resources available to help you prepare and respond to the emergency needs of your animals. Animals and Emergencies - Federal Emergency Management Agency FEMA

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