Regardless of what time of year your pet first called “your casa mi casa,” the holiday season presents a plethora of hazards way beyond too much catnip or too many gourmet doggie treats.
Christmas lights, decorations and presents under the tree all create opportunities for your furry friend to get hurt. Your dog or cat could start with the gift of chocolates under the tree (a no-no for pets), get tangled up in light strands and make a run for it, causing holiday chaos. And your puppy could be in for a shock if she decides cords or light strands are meant for her gnawing pleasure.
Electronics are popular gifts during the holidays, and they could be a hazard for your pets as well. When using laptops, tablets, phones or other electronics that are charging and plugged into an outlet, make sure your pet does not chew on the cord, which could cause electrical shock.
Chewing on an electrical cord is the most common cause of electric shock in puppies, according to Maureen McMichael, DVM, lead ER veterinarian at the Small Animal Clinic at the University of Illinois (U of I).
She said a puppy can chew a light strand or any type of live electrical cord and the owner may not realize it until a couple of hours later when the pup has trouble breathing. The Small Animal Clinic at the U of I sees 15 to 20 cases per year, she says, and the symptoms follow a predictable course: ulcers in the mouth and lesions on the tongue and gums. Furthermore, the contact with the live wire sends a surge of electricity through the heart and lungs, which eventually causes fluid to accumulate in the lungs.
She recommends enclosing cords in a long plastic or rubber cord protector that snaps shut to enclose and protect cords, and to pet proof your home much like you would for babies and toddlers. McMichael adds that puppies are the most likely culprit to get into electrical mishaps, and that most lose interest as they grow into adulthood. She said felines (and other pets) are more selective about what they chew on and are less likely to chew on an electrical cord, although it could happen.
Safe Electricity reminds pet owners to take these additional precautions not just during the holidays, but year-round:
- Even charging cords left plugged in but not in use are tempting for pets. Unplug and put away while not in use (doing so saves energy as well).
- Do not let your pets nap by or behind warm computer equipment or any other electrical devices. While it might make a cozy spot, it could cause trouble for your pet.
- Don’t leave your pets unattended around burn hazards, such as a hair straightener or portable heater, or, when outside, a hot grill. Pets can easily burn themselves. (Any heating appliance, but especially a space heater, should never be left unattended.)
- If you find your furry friend has swallowed a gadget such as a chewed up cell phone (it has happened!) or other electronic parts, call your vet or pet hospital right away. It could cause a digestive blockage. In addition, the contents of many tech-savvy or electronic devices are toxic.
- If your pet lives outdoors, bring it inside during thunderstorms. Outdoor dogs kept in cages or on chains are more susceptible to lightning strikes due their close proximity to metal.
For more information on electrical safety, visit SafeElectricity.org.