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Holiday safety, travel tips for pets

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Posted: Tuesday, December 22, 2009 12:00 am

While the holidays may be a festive time of year, they are also filled with numerous “pet hazards.” The Arizona Animal Welfare League and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (AAWL/SPCA) recommends ways to keep pets safe, and also cautions against giving an animal as a gift.



• Keep tinsel, hooks, ribbon, popcorn strands and other decorations away from pets. If swallowed, these items can be deadly.

• Watch out for glass ornaments, which can break and end up embedded in pets’ paws. Fragile ornaments can shatter in an animal’s mouth and leave shards of glass in your pet’s teeth or gums.

• Anchor your Christmas tree securely so that pets can’t knock it over. Don’t hang ornaments on low branches, where they will tempt curious kitties and playful pups.


Electric cords, candles

• Tape down or conceal electric cords. Be sure strands of lights are safely out of paw’s reach. If your pet chews on an electric cord, she could get a fatal 100-volt charge.

• Keep your Christmas and Hanukkah candles in places where your pets can’t knock them over and burn them or your home.



• Many holiday plants can harm your pets. Mistletoe can give your pet an upset stomach and may cause heart problems. Holly can cause vomiting, nausea and lethargy. Poinsettias can upset your pet’s digestive system. Chemicals used in water to preserve Christmas trees can be poisonous to pets – don’t let your animal drink from the tree stand.


Alcohol, chocolate

• Never give an animal alcohol. Be aware of party guests leaving unfinished alcoholic beverages on low tables or other places where pets will find them. Dogs and cats can become seriously ill or die after ingesting just a few ounces of alcohol.

• Keep all chocolate out of paw’s reach. Chocolate contains chemicals that can over-stimulate your pet’s neurological and cardiac systems, leading to coma and death.


Emergency veterinary care

• Find out if and when your veterinarian will be open during the holiday season. Also know the location of the emergency animal clinic nearest you. If your pet requires immediate care, you won’t have time to search for the address and phone number. Look it up now, just in case!


Pets as gifts

The holidays are hectic, and new pet owners may not be able to provide a dog or cat with the time and love required amid the hustle and bustle of festivities. In lieu of giving animals as gifts, offer to visit the AAWL/SPCA with your gift recipient so he or she can pick out a pet that will be compatible with their needs and lifestyle. Then you can pay for the adoption fee of the animal.


Pet travel safety tips

The holidays are also a busy travel time, and many pet owners struggle with the decision to take their pets with them or leave them at home. Regardless of your decision, the AAWL/SPCA offers a few travel tips for pet owners.


Airline safety

• Make sure your pet’s vaccinations are up-to-date.

• Always make sure your pet is properly identified. Current collar, ID tags and updated contact information on your pet’s microchip are imperative. Include destination information in case your pet escapes, and always carry a recent photograph of your animal with you.

• Try to book non-stop flights. Let airline personnel know you have a pet in cargo. Never leave your pet unattended in an airport.

• Make sure you have an airline-approved kennel that is large enough for your pet to stand and turn around comfortably. Affix “live animal” and “this end up” stickers to the kennel.

• Puppies, kittens, sick, elderly or pregnant animals should not travel by air.


Vehicle safety

• Make sure your dog or cat is kept safely inside your vehicle. Pets who are allowed to stick their heads out of car windows can be injured by flying debris.

• Dogs that do not like to ride in the car should be placed in a carrier. If your pooch enjoys car rides, use a restraining harness (pet seat belt) to keep him secure.

• Most cats do not enjoy traveling. For their safety and yours, confine them to a carrier.

• Plan on stopping frequently to allow your pet an opportunity to exercise and use the bathroom.

• Never allow your pet to leave the car without a leash, collar and ID tag.

• Never leave your animal unattended in a parked car.


Boarding your pet

• If you do not already have a boarding kennel, ask a friend or your veterinarian for a reference.

• Visit the kennel and ask to see the places where your pet will be taken.

• Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Is the facility clean? Is the temperature monitored? Does the staff seem caring? Do dogs have indoor/outdoor runs, or are they taken outside for “potty breaks” frequently? Are cats housed in quarters away from dogs?

• Before going to the kennel be sure to pack your pet’s medications, special food (if any), your veterinarian’s phone number and contact information for you and a local “back-up.”

To learn more about how AAWL is working hard to find lifelong, loving homes for every homeless pet, go to


Submitted by the Arizona Animal Welfare League and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (AAWL/SPCA). To learn more, visit

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