One of the many precautions homeowners can take to ensure a joyous holiday season is taking care of their pets.

The delicious food, decorative ornaments and party poppers are all signature features of this time of year, but these and other seasonal elements can present potentially life threatening dangers to animals if not handled properly.

The Fort Belvoir Veterinary Center has a number of safety tips to help prevent your pet from being harmed.

"Monitoring your pets during the holidays leads to a stress free environment for the Families and for the pets," said Maj. Nic Cabano, VETCEN chief officer in charge.

A frequent issue Cabano sees is the ingestion of foreign items.

Bubble lights, tinsel, electrical wiring, plants such as lilies, holly and mistletoe, beverages and foods can all inflict significant damage to a pet if consumed or exposed to them.

The effects can lead to issues such as respiratory failure, disorientation, vomiting, diarrhea, a lack of eating, burns, kidney failure, seizure, difficulties breathing and death.

The list of pet-safe holiday items is small, if even existent, so Cabano suggests that Families keep all holiday items away from their pets.

Leftovers should not be fed to pets, candles shouldn't be left unattended and electrical equipment should be wired up.

He also said to consider keeping your pet in a crate or separate room during holiday festivities, especially parties because some animals have noise phobias.

When looking for signs that a pet has consumed a foreign item, Cabano recommends looking for packages that appear to have been open and missing food ingredients or decorations.

Changes in behavior may be a signal of a problem as well.

Call the VETCEN with any questions or concerns. In case of an emergency, the VETCEN can handle issues during duty hours. After hours however, Cabano recommends calling the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals poison control center.

Cabano cautioned however, that frequent emergency visits can leave a Family with hefty bills, so prevention is the best practice during the holiday season.

"As long as you keep it out of reach, you're doing the best thing for the animals," Cabano said. "The best advice is to make sure they safeguard their pets from harm and have a list of emergency contact numbers available should a situation arise."

Cabano said taking these measures will help Families spend more time enjoying the season and less time stressing out.

"You're preventing emotional and financial hardships," Cabano said.

Contact the VETCEN at (703) 805-4336 with questions about pet safety during the holidays.

The American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals hotline number is (888) 426-4435.

Page last updated Thu December 15th, 2011 at 00:00