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Keep pets safe during holidays, winter

COVINGTON -- Local animal workers want residents to keep their pets safe this holiday season and into the winter months.

During the holidays, pets -- especially indoor cats and puppies -- are likely to get into gifts, food and greenery. Although they are usually playing, they could hurt themselves as a result.

Dr. Laura Thomas of Wellspring Animal Hospital in Covington said she is fortunate not to see a lot of sick animal cases during the holidays, but the biggest problem this time of the year is pets getting into tinsel on the Christmas tree.

"Particularly cats like to eat it and occasionally dogs," Thomas said. "And they can get intestinal obstruction from it. They swallow it and it anchors at a certain point in their (gastrointestinal) tract ... and it's quite dangerous."

Ribbons and other holiday decorations also can cause intestinal obstruction when pets eat them.

Also, Thomas said poinsettias, particularly the berries on the plant, are toxic and lilies can cause kidney failure when eaten. Rockdale County Animal Shelter Manager Ciji Baker said mistletoe and other seasonal plants also can be toxic to pets.

They also advise pet owners to avoid giving their pets table scraps, bones and candies like chocolate, which can cause choking or irritated stomachs.

"Their GI (tract) gets upset when they eat things they shouldn't eat, like table food," Thomas said.

Baker said families with Christmas trees should avoid using chemicals in their tree water, which dogs sometimes like to drink, and also should keep their tree secure in case a cat tries to climb up it. He also advised pet owners to use shatterproof ornaments or place fragile ones high on the tree, out of reach from pets.

"They also should be careful with electrical cords," he said. "A lot of people add a new puppy at Christmas, and (puppies) like to chew."

He said owners should use caution when giving pets -- preferably adopted ones -- at Christmas.

"Do your research, and don't just get it as a last-minute gift," he said. "A lot of people will return them because they realize they are too much to handle."

The Humane Society of the United States recommends giving adoption certificates instead of an actual pet.

"Many shelters offer adoption gift certificates so the recipient can be actively involved in choosing the perfect pet who will share their home for years to come," said Betsy McFarland, senior director of companion animals at the society.

Fires also can happen during the holidays when pets are involved. Baker said keep candles and other lit items from being knocked over by an animals and keep a protective screen over the fireplace.

The animal workers also recommend keeping an eye on pets, especially young ones and older ones with health problems, during the colder months.

"It depends on the particular animal and what they are used to," Thomas said, adding that pet owners also should make sure their water doesn't freeze. "As long as they are used to being outside, just make sure they have adequate food and shelter and are away from the wind."

However, she said when temperatures drop below 20 degrees, every pet needs to be kept inside.

During holiday parties and other large gatherings at a home, Baker also advised owners of indoor pets to keep them in a secured area to avoid them hurting someone because of their excitement, nervousness or escaping from an open door.

"(Animals) are used to the people they live with, but we see a lot of bite cases," Baker said.