Have your kids help you keep the family pets safe during the holidays

While the holidays are a lot of fun for humans, those fun decorations and foods can pose a real threat to your household pets.

According to the Pet Poison Hotline, four of the most common food-related hazards for pets are chocolate, candy overindulgence, raisins and candy wrappers.  However, it’s not just food-related items that can cause trouble for your pets.  Glow sticks, jewelry, costumes and candles are also particularly dangerous. 

Don’t let these hazards keep you from having fun during the holidays!  Be sure to consider the dangers and think proactively.  One way to do that is to engage your children in ensuring that the family pets are safe.  Kids.gov has a few suggestions for Keeping Your Pets Safe During the Holidays.  They suggest:

  • Tinsel and ribbons: Cats love to play with shiny tinsel and ribbon, but if swallowed, they can get tangled in their stomachs and make them very sick. If you have a cat, don’t decorate with tinsel.
    • Keep the kids involved: Teach the kids to pick up the ribbons after gifts are unwrapped.
  • Plants: Lots of families have poinsettias, holly or mistletoe around the house for the holidays. Most pets won’t bother with them, but these plants can make animals sick.
    • Keep the kids involved: If your kids see their pets eat any of these plants, tell them to let you know, so you can call a veterinarian.
  • Table scraps: It is very tempting to sneak some table scraps to pets during the holiday meal. Kids will follow your lead, so it is important to model good behavior by resisting this temptation. When animals eat fatty foods, it can make their stomachs upset.
    • Keep the kids involved: Teach your kids that it is best to only feed pets the proper pet food. Dogs love turkey, chicken and steak bones, but bones can splinter and puncture the digestive tract.  
    • Keep the kids involved: Teach your kids that it is important to make sure bones go in the garbage and not in the dog.
  • Human treats: Chocolate, some sugar-free mints and gum can make dogs very sick.
    • Keep the kids involved: Teach your kids to not leave candy where dogs can get at it. Tell your kids that if they see their pet eating chocolate, sugar-free mints or gum, to let you know, so that you can call a veterinarian.
  • Pet treats: It is fun for kids to give pet treats for a stocking stuffer, but even pet treats can cause problems for animals. Some treats can get stuck in a dog or cat’s throat. Too many treats may make pets sick. Buy appropriate sized treats for your pets.
    • Keep the kids involved: Teach your kids to not give pets too many treats at once.
  • Cold weather: With the holidays, there may be a lot of activity and distractions going on in your house. Teach your kids to pay attention when they open doors to go outside, so their pet doesn’t get outside. A pet left outside for too long in the cold, without shelter, could be in danger.
    • Keep the kids involved: Remind your children on days when it is bitter cold, to make sure their pet is somewhere safe and warm.

Keeping your children involved in pet safety during the holidays is great!  It can teach them valuable life skills that will benefit them as they grow and mature into adults who will hopefully become responsible pet owners themselves.  The Michigan 4-H Youth Program uses the Targeting Life Skill Model as a guideline in making the connection between 4-H and life skills learned.  To learn more about Michigan 4-H Youth Programs and get youth involved in 4-H to help them develop life skills, visit your local MSU Extension office.

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