Recommended Reading

BOOKS

"The Loss of a Pet"- Wallace Sife, Howell Book House

"Animals and the Afterlife" - Kim Sheridan, Enlighthouse Publishing

"Kinship with All Life" - J. Allen Boone, Harper Collins

"Thanking the Monkey" - Karen Dawn, Harper

"Nine Steps to Eden" - Richard Deboo, Bright Pen

Why The Death of a Pet Can Be Even More Painful Than The Death Of A Relative
By Justin Palmer, June 24, 2018, I Heart Dogs


Has a friend ever confided in you that the loss of their pet caused more grief than the death of a close relative? Have you ever felt this way yourself?

Society has conditioned us to feel ashamed of such emotions, but research suggests we are more than justified when we deeply mourn the loss of a furry friend.


When our first family dog, Spike passed away, my father suffered terribly. He would come home from work and just sit in his car, unable to face walking through the door without our little Poodle mix to greet him. He took long walks and visited online pet loss support groups. He woke up crying in the night.

This was the same man who years later would practically carry me out of a family funeral when my own grief buckled my knees. At the time I was confused by his varying reactions, but a recent article from Business Insider sheds light on the subject. Turns out it’s actually quite normal for humans to experience more intense pain at the loss of a pet than that of a close friend or even a relative.

For many people, the death of a pet is comparable in almost every way to the loss of a loved one. There is even research to back this up, yet there are virtually no cultural rituals to help us cope. When a human passes away there are obituaries, eulogies, religious ceremonies, and gatherings of family and friends. We are given time off work – some employers even offer bereavement pay. There are so many ways in which we are encouraged to mourn and express our emotions.

When a pet dies, we often have none of these traditions or sympathetic supporters to turn to. Most people are expected to return to all of life’s responsibilities right away, with little or no closure. The house is strangely quiet and filled with bittersweet memories. We have lost a best friend and faithful companion, but the depth of that pain goes almost unacknowledged.

Pet owners are made to feel that their grief is dramatic, excessive, or even shameful. After all, “it was just a dog.” The incredible human-animal bond we have formed with dogs is overlooked. Our pups provide us with constant positive feedback. They adore us simply for being “us.” They lower our blood pressure and elevate our mood. How could we not be devastated when that is lost?

There is also the matter of the sudden life changes that occur when a pet passes away. There are no more 6 AM wet-nosed wake-up calls, daily walks, or warm greetings after a long day at the office. For many people, their pets give them a sense of purpose – even a reason for being. When that suddenly vanishes, it is understandably life-altering.

Another interesting factor pointed out by Business Insider is a phenomenon known as “misnaming.” It describes our tendency to accidentally refer to a child, partner or loved one by our pets’ names. This indicates that we place our dogs in the same mental category as our closest family members. When they die that is essentially what we have lost. A cherished family member.

The death of a pet means the loss of a source of unconditional love, a devoted companion, and a provider of security and comfort. Our dogs are sewn into the very fabric of our day to day lives. So yes, it hurts. Sometimes even more than the death of a friend or family member. And there is absolutely no reason to feel ashamed of that.

The original article may be found online here<https://iheartdogs.com/why-the-death-of-a-pet-can-be-even-more-painful-than-the-death-of-a-relative/?fbclid=IwAR2InuYs_CEluaDuXvNuVMyPd0m1AUvnEcZgm3M9ExJzvZ5pxxG7g9n1YBo>

Do you long to make a difference for animals in the world?

Do you aspire to live each and every day with gratitude and reverence?

Do you want to uncover the hidden healing power of your very own heart?

In this groundbreaking six-lesson video course, Kathleen gives you simple Reiki meditations to help you move from anxiety to gratitude and from scattered stress to focused reverence.

Meant for Reiki practitioners of all lineages and animal lovers from all backgrounds, this course will help you remember the infinite healing power inside your heart: the power of love and compassion.  Click here for more information on this wonderful series. 

If Climate Change Is Causing You Anxiety or Even Grief,
Experts Say You Are Not Alone

Patricia Garcia for Vogue, October 19, 2018

We only have 22 years to get our affairs in order. At least, that’s the message many of us understood after reading the alarming report released this month by the United Nations’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which predicted that the human population could witness a major environmental catastrophe as early as 2040—think: massive famine, droughts, coral reefs dying off, wildfires, and other cataclysmic conditions.

It’s a harsh reality that brings our worst fears to a very, very near future, leaving many of us feeling rattled, hopeless, even depressed. Susan Clayton, a professor of psychology and environmental studies at the College of Wooster and coauthor of a 2017 report titled “Mental Health and Our Changing Climate: Impacts, Implications, and Guidance,” says there’s evidence that mental health issues tied to the precarious future of our planet are on the rise. “We can say that a significant proportion of people are experiencing stress and worry about the potential impacts of climate change, and that the level of worry is almost certainly increasing.” And while there is not a specific name for this type of preoccupation, several studies have coined it “eco-anxiety,” “climate change distress,” and “ecological grief.” “How it will affect people’s mental health in the long run will depend on how society responds to it,” Clayton adds.

For many people, eco-anxiety is already a part of everyday life. Last week, as the country watched Hurricane Michael, a Category 4 storm making its way across the Florida Panhandle, I had already been obsessively tracking its path and likely cone of impact for days. Only a year after moving to Miami from New York City, I had become a full-blown hurricane obsessive, following expert storm trackers and climate specialists on Twitter as diligently as people were tracking Pete Davidson and Ariana Grande’s whirlwind relationship.

My newfound weather obsession was a direct result of last year’s Hurricane Irma and the massive state evacuation that preceded it. For five days, my husband, 2-year-old daughter, and my mother-in-law’s three dogs (it’s a long story) drove for hours on end, running away from the hurricane by jumping from Orlando to Jacksonville until we finally made our way to Atlanta, where the house we stayed in eventually lost power and forced us to hit the road once again. Thankfully, once we returned more than a week later, our eighth-floor apartment was unscathed. But the scene at my in-law’s home was entirely different, the neighborhood looked like it had been pillaged by giants who ripped out century-old oak trees from their roots and carelessly tossed them around; some landing on roofs, others blocking entire streets.

While we were incredibly lucky—nobody was injured and no major property damage happened—the stressful and scary evacuation road trip left me rattled and anxious. (Don’t doubt the impact a weeklong road trip with a toddler can leave on your psyche.) Research on the psychological effects of extreme weather events estimate that “between 25 and 50 percent of all people exposed to an extreme weather disaster may have some adverse mental health effects,” according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. Acute symptoms can include depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, and the severity of these depends on several factors including a “person’s age, coping capacity, and proximity to the devastation.”

For those of us who live in areas that are prone to natural disasters—Californians must worry about wildfires and earthquakes, while Southerners are on constant hurricane watch—the first line of defense against eco-anxiety is to have a plan. “For people who can anticipate a high possibility of facing a climate disaster, they are likely to feel better if they inform themselves about what the future might hold,” says Clayton. “Think about the likely threats in the area and actively make plans for how to cope.” For example, have a first-aid kit, non-perishable food, and water always on hand. Write down and practice an emergency plan with your family. Find out if you live in a flood zone and how your local government plans to inform you of a potential disaster. The idea is to eliminate as much uncertainty as possible in an already uncertain scenario.

Research has also found that people with strong social connections and networks during, and in the wake, of a natural disaster tend to have lower rates of psychological distress and a higher capacity to withstand traumatic experiences. “For everyone, strengthening social connections can be a powerful source of resilience,” says Clayton. Lean on your family, friends, and neighbors, but don’t forget to offer them a helping hand, too. Getting involved in community activities is also beneficial. “Even book groups or exercise groups can be helpful,” Clayton adds. “The social bonds and the opportunity to have informal, unplanned conversation with people about issues you care about will contribute to mental, and even physical, health.”

Even if you think you can do little to change our environmental outcome, small changes in your carbon footprint can also create a huge difference in your mental state. Studies show that walking or biking to work (or taking public transportation, if those aren’t doable) can reduce overall stress levels and have a positive effect on a person’s emotional and physical well-being.

As for those who are tempted to ignore all the bad news in an effort to stay sane, it’s important to confront the issue of climate change directly. “The best way to fight feelings of helplessness is to increase feelings of empowerment by getting informed and getting involved,” explains Clayton. “Joining together with others to address the issue not only enables people to enhance their impact, but also provides social support that can help with the negative emotions.” You can get involved by joining a grassroots initiative focused on battling climate change or by donating to politicians who support action against climate change. (GiveGreen provides an easy way to do this.)

The point is, there is plenty to do instead of hiding out under the covers. In the case of my family, our plan in the eventuality of another hurricane is already in place. (Let’s just say, we won’t hesitate on buying plane tickets next time around.) And for now, we’ve scrapped the idea of buying a house anytime soon. Getting a mortgage on a home in a city vulnerable to sea-level rise and that will more than likely be hit by several superstorms seemed like too much of a risk. “Fear feeds on itself. When we refuse to confront the thing we’re afraid of, it seems even more scary and powerful—like the monster under the bed,” adds Clayton. At least we’ve started looking under the bed.


The original article may be found online here: <https://www.vogue.com/article/eco-anxiety-grief-mental-health-climate-change>
Photo credit: Mikael Jansson, Vogue, June 2017

JUST A DOG

From time to time, people tell me, “lighten up, it’s just a dog,”
or “that’s a lot of money for just a dog.”

They don’t understand the distance travelled, the time spent,
or the costs involved for “just a dog.”

Some of my proudest moments have come about with “just a dog.”

Many hours have passed and my only company was “just a dog,”
but I did not once feel slighted.

Some of my saddest moments have been brought about by
“just a dog,” and in those days of darkness, the gentle touch
of “just a dog” gave me comfort and reason to overcome the day.

If you, too, think it’s “just a dog,” then you probably understand
phrases like “just a friend,” “just a sunrise,” or “just a promise.”

“Just a dog” brings into my life the very essence of friendship,
trust, and pure unbridled joy.

“Just a dog” brings out the compassion and patience
that make me a better person.

Because of “just a dog” I will rise early, take long walks and look
longingly to the future.

So for me and folks like me, it’s not “just a dog”
but an embodiment of all the hopes and dreams of the future,
the fond memories of the past, and the pure joy of the moment.

“Just a dog” brings out what’s good in me and diverts my thoughts
away from myself and the worries of the day.

I hope that someday they can understand that its’ not “just a dog”
but the thing that gives me humanity and keeps me from being
“just a man” or “just a woman.”

So the next time you hear the phrase “just a dog,”
just smile, because they “just don’t understand.”

~Unknown Author~

 

Why We Need to Take Pet Loss Seriously

How to handle grief after a pet’s death—and why we all need to change our attitudes about it
Guy Winch, May 22, 2018 
Scientific American

Doug’s amateur soccer team had just lost its playoff game, and Doug needed a pick-me-up. He decided to stop by the local animal shelter on his way home because puppies always put a smile on his face. He was by no means looking to adopt an animal, but Delia, a five-month-old mutt, changed his mind. “I had her for 17 years,” Doug said, wiping away tears in our psychotherapy session. “I knew it would be rough when she died, but I had no idea... I was a total wreck. I cried for days. I couldn’t get any work done. And worst of all, I was too embarrassed about it to tell anyone. I spent days at work crying in private and muttering ‘allergies’ whenever someone glanced at my puffy eyes.”

Losing a beloved pet is often an emotionally devastating experience. Yet as a society, we do not recognize how painful pet loss can be and how much it can impair our emotional and physical health. Symptoms of acute grief after the loss of a pet can last from one to two months, with symptoms of grief persisting up to a full year (on average). The New England Journal of Medicine reported in October 2017 that after her dog died, a woman experienced “broken heart syndrome”—a condition in which the response to grief is so severe the person exhibits symptoms that mimic a heart attack, including elevated hormone levels that can be 30 times greater than normal.

Although grief over the loss of a cherished pet may be as intense and even as lengthy as when a significant person in our life dies, our process of mourning is quite different. Many of the societal mechanisms of social and community support are absent when a pet dies. Few of us ask our employers for time off to grieve a beloved cat or dog because we fear doing so would paint us as overly sentimental, lacking in maturity or emotionally weak. Studies have found that social support is a crucial ingredient in recovering from grief of all kinds. Thus, we are not only robbed of invaluable support systems when our pet dies, but our own perceptions of our emotional responses are likely to add an extra layer of distress. We may feel embarrassed and even ashamed about the severity of the heartbreak we feel and, consequently, hesitate to disclose our feelings to our loved ones. That additional shame complicates the process of recovery by making it more lengthy and complex than it should be.

Losing a pet can leave significant voids in our life that we need to fill: it can change our daily routines, causing ripple effects that go far beyond the loss of the actual animal. Caring for our pet creates responsibilities and a schedule around which we often craft our days. We get exercise by walking our dog, and we socialize with other owners at the dog runs. We awake early every day to feed our cat (or we are woken by a pet if we forget!), but we get a lot more done because of it.

Losing a pet disrupts these routines. Cats, dogs, horses and other cherished pets provide companionship, reduce loneliness and depression, and can ease anxiety. They support our emotional well-being and imbue our actions with meaning. This is why, in addition to emotional pain, we feel aimless and lost in the days and weeks after our pet dies.

Recovering from pet loss, as in all forms of grief, requires us to recognize these changes and find ways to deal with them. We need to seek social support from people we know will understand and sympathize with our emotions and not judge us for them. Many animal clinics offer bereavement groups for pet owners. 

We might need to reorganize our routines and daily activities so we do not lose the secondary benefits we derived from having our pet. For example, if our exercise came from walking our dog we need to find alternative ways to reach our daily “step goals.” If we spent most Saturday mornings with our fellow pet owners, we need to find other outlets through which we can socialize and enjoy the outdoors.

It is time we gave grieving pet owners the recognition, support and consideration they need. Yes, it is up to us to identify and address our emotional wounds when our pet dies, but the more validation we receive from those around us, the quicker and the more complete our psychological recovery will be.

The original article may be found here: <https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-we-need-to-take-pet-loss-seriously/?fbclid=IwAR3pFwd9Zlz_Rag3-HUa_dRWGn3vX2Gq4Fz5f_yrOl6nUA0ZBtmiVeN40Ww>

Photo credit: Christin Lola, Getty Images
Guy Winch Guy Winch is a psychologist, speaker and author. His new book, How to Fix a Broken Heart(TED Books/Simon & Schuster, 2018), covers both pet loss and romantic heartbreak.

 


"Pigs are still property – but animal farming is a serious matter for ethical consideration"-
Anna Pippus, May 4, 2017, The Globe & Mail 

Anna Pippus is a Vancouver-based lawyer and director of farmed animal advocacy at Animal Justice.

It’s official: Giving water to panting pigs on their way to slaughter isn’t a crime.

Actually, it was never a crime. It’s only criminal mischief to “obstruct, interrupt, or interfere” with the “lawful use, enjoyment, or operation of property.”

The exact words matter. Our criminal laws ban actual – not speculative, not approximate, not theoretically possible – behaviour.

When Anita Krajnc offered water to pigs on a transport truck on a hot summer day near an Ontario slaughterhouse, she wasn’t interfering with the lawful “use” of the pigs. When the red light turned green, the pigs were taken to the slaughterhouse and killed for food. Business continued as usual. Related: Judge acquits woman who gave water to pigs headed to slaughter

The intense international attention on the trial suggests that perhaps business as usual offends us more than the supposed crime of offering water to a thirsty animal. The public was more interested in why pigs were panting on a transport truck in the first place, and why prosecutors felt it was worth a significant chunk of the public purse to try to punish a Good Samaritan from providing momentary reprieve to a doomed animal in his or her last few minutes of life.

Laws and their enforcement typically track social norms, not the other way around. For a long time the social norm has been that animals are farmed as the property of humans. Their rights and interests didn’t really factor into the equation.

Now, we’re starting to understand that sentience matters and that yummy, cheap bacon isn’t a good enough reason to turn away from animal suffering. We’re starting to understand the farming of animals – the hows and even the whys of it – to be a serious matter for ethical consideration.

Our laws are excellent when it comes to protecting the rights of property owners. Protecting animals, not so much.

In acquitting Ms. Krajnc, the judge found that the pigs were being used lawfully. In other words, nothing about the panting pig aboard the unventilated metal truck on a hot summer’s day violated animal-protection laws. Maybe.
But transport laws prohibit exposing animals to suffering from weather exposure. The industry’s own code of practice states, “all species will pant when overheated, animals standing with neck extended with open mouthed breathing is a dangerous situation.” Footage and photos clearly show pigs in just this position on the hot summer’s day in question. The truck driver testified that he didn’t even check on the condition of the pigs when he got out of his truck to confront Ms. Krajnc.

Though the industry hasn’t updated its trucks to better comply with regulations, it should. In a case dealing with farmed animals suffering to death from weather exposure in transport, the Federal Court of Appeal recently made the common-sense observation that regulations can require regulated parties to improve their operations and practices.

Ms. Krajnc’s trial may be a catalyst for change. Increased scrutiny on the animal-agriculture system will result in enhanced law enforcement, because as our social norms change, so will our expectations – and as our expectations change, so too will law enforcement.

Ms. Krajnc was acquitted only for the technical reason that her giving water to the pigs didn’t amount to an interference. Pigs continue to be property, transported on inadequate trucks for us to mindlessly consume endless quantities of cheap bacon. But this trial may shift the tide.

The next time someone offers water to panting pigs, let’s hope prosecutors pursue those responsible for causing those pigs to suffer in the first place.

The original article may be found here.
<https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/pigs-are-still-propertybut-animal-farming-is-a-serious-matter-for-ethical-consideration/article34902322/>


How A Vegan Lifestyle Can Help Balance the Chakras

What we eat can have varying effects on our energy system (our chakras). It's no surprise that some foods are better for us than others and we can certainly tell from how we feel. Foods which have a low life-force energy, heavy foods such as meat, tend to close our chakras, while foods with higher life-force energy, lighter foods such as fruits and vegetables, tend to open them.

People don't always realise that the dietary choices they are making may largely be out of habit, through our life-long conditioning, and being led to believe that certain foods are good for us when in reality they are not. I encourage you to incorporate more plant-based foods into your diet and see what a positive effect this may have on your health and energy. Not only is this better for you, but you will be helping the environment and animals too. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, meat-eating is listed as the "second-biggest environmental hazard facing the earth", and furthermore, it is calculated that nearly 51% of greenhouse-gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture. Over 56 billion animals are used in food production worldwide every year. Every year! These sentient beings want to live and are just as worthy of compassion as the dogs, cats and other companion animals who we open our homes and hearts to. 


For more information about how you can bring higher-energy foods into your diet, and lead a more compassionate lifestyle, please check out Vegan.com and why not try the 7-day vegan challenge!

"How The Reducetarian Diet Could Help Solve Our Climate Change Problem" -
Julie R. Thompson, 27 April 2017, Huffingtonpost

There is scientific-backed research that proves the detrimental impact our meat-eating ways have on the environment. In fact, it’s been found that a widespread switch to vegetarianism would cut carbon emissions by nearly two-thirds. It’s why the United Nations has been urging people to eat less meat for roughly 9 years now, but still, here we are. The only problem is, not everyone is ready to give up meat.

For those of you who aren’t ready to take the meat-free plunge, Brian Kateman has a suggestion: become a reducetarian.

Kateman, who has a masters in conservation biology, has made it his goal to encourage others to simply eat fewer animal products, and less of them. That’s why he established the Reducetarian Foundation (RF) and edited the recently published the new book, The Reducetarian Solution. He says that by simply setting actionable goals to reduce our animal product intake we can increase the wellbeing of our animals, improve human health and protect our planet

Those actionable goals can be as small or as big as what works for you. It can mean joining in on Meatless Monday. It can be trying out Mark Bittman’s Vegan before 6. Or it can simply mean skipping the bacon on your burger. The goal is to “mindfully and gradually reduce [one’s consumption of meat with respect to their own diet,” as the RF outlines on their website.

The problem with the reducetarian diet is the same one that disillusioned voters face on Election Day: what difference is my small action (or vote) going to make? According to RF, a whole lot. Watch their video below for more details: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLzjIKAmm_A&feature=youtu.be

The reducetarian diet might not cut our meat consumption enough to make a 2/3 decrease in emissions, but it at least it provides what feels like a feasible goal in the right direction.


Julie Thompson is Senior Editor of Taste, HuffPost.
The original article may be found here.


An interesting and poignant article on pet loss and bereavement, featured in the New York Times 

"Things I Wish I Had Known When My Dog Died" -  Jen A. Miller, 23 March 2017

On Jan. 4, 11 years and 26 days after I walked out of an animal shelter in New Jersey with a little white and brown dog attached to the end of a brand-new leash, she died. On this day, an undiagnosed tumor pressed down on Emily’s brain and told her that she needed to escape, which made her usually soft, cuddly and often napping body go wild, endangering herself and me. The humane thing to do was put her down.

I don’t think anything could have prepared me for that moment, or the searing grief that followed. But if I could go back in time to console myself, I would tell myself these six things:

Most people will say the wrong thing. They will talk about dogs they knew and loved and put down, too, or, if they haven’t walked through this long, lonely tunnel yet, about how they can’t possibly imagine losing their very alive pet, which reminds you that yours is dead. They will also ask how old she was, and when you say 15, they will say, “Well, it was a good long life,” as if the ending of it would be less painful because of how long you were together.

They may tell you other dog death stories, too, like the one about the dog who was so excited to be home from vacation that he bolted out of the car and was immediately run over while the whole family watched — stories that imply it could have been worse. They will shove shelter listings for other Jack Russell terriers at you, as if another dog could slip into that perfect little spot left by your beloved one-of-a-kind pet.

Guilt overwhelms. I still tell myself that I killed Emily, despite the veterinarian telling me, after her body had been taken away, while I gripped both a counter and a vet tech to keep from collapsing, that all four of her paws had been bloodied as she had clawed at the floor, the door and the ground during her manic and desperate attempt to get away from my home. There is guilt, too, over the relief of no longer having to take care of a dog who was on multiple medications and who had arthritis, two defective heart valves and pulmonary hypertension.

You will become unmoored. I adopted Emily soon after I became a freelance writer, and I wrote three books with her by my side. She was the metronome to my life. With her gone, I floated through a space she no longer occupied but haunted with every little white hair found on my blankets, on the floor, in my shoes. Once, in the first week following her death, I came up from the basement and looked at the spot where she would usually be waiting. I called for her with the foolish notion that she’d appear at the top of the stairs. But of course, no: just another sledgehammer reminder that she was really gone.

Grief is exhausting. Last fall, I ran two marathons and an ultramarathon. After Emily died, I couldn’t drag myself through three miles, not to mention find the energy to get out of bed, put on clothes that were not my pajamas and shower at regular intervals. I pushed off assignments because the idea of putting my fingers to the keyboard was inconceivable when Emily wasn’t sleeping on her bed in the corner of my office. These were wretched, grief-stained days, surrounded by a deafening silence.

I went back into therapy after she died and was told I was depressed, which wasn’t surprising, as I had started to slip into bed at 8:30 p.m. and not get up until half a day later. Losing a companion and your routine all at once, especially if you’re single like me, could throw anyone into a tailspin.

It will get better. You won’t want to hear it, or believe it, because the pain is so suffocating. It does ease, though, almost without you noticing it.

But still, it slaps back. This may happen at predictable moments, such as when you decide to sell her crate, and sometimes not. Soon after Emily died, I got on a plane and went to Florida to bake out the pain with all-day poolside sessions punctuated by midday drinks. It worked, somewhat, but on my last night there, my face cracked open at the World of Disney store when I saw a mug with the character Stitch that said “brave” on one side and “loyal” on the other. Only the cashier noticed that I paid with tears and snot running down my face. I then ran out of the store to stare at a lake.

These days, I get up, I brush my teeth, I write, I run. I smile now and laugh sometimes. The pain still catches me, though, and I can now more clearly see why: I loved that dog, and in giving a scared, abused, imperfect Emily a home, she loved me back, and together our lives both bloomed. The loss of that joy is why the pain is so acute — and why, at some point in the maybe not so distant future, I’ll go back to that animal shelter with a brand-new leash, and do it all over again.

Jen A. Miller is the author of “Running: A Love Story
Photo credit: Heidi Younger

The original article may be found here.


An article I wrote on holiday hazards and foods to keep away from pets

"Holiday Hazards for Pets" -  Juli Wild, 09 December 2016



The festive season is upon us again; our homes are beautifully decorated and our tables laden with wonderful holiday foods, and while we all lose ourselves in the hustle and bustle of the season it’s important to be aware of possible threats (such as anxiety due to fireworks) to our pets’ safety and wellbeing. It’s easy to keep pets safe over the holidays. Whatever plans you might have over the next few weeks you’ll want to make sure they have a safe, quiet space to retreat to, and remember to keep the following holiday hazards for pets in mind:


  • Holiday eats - it’s best to keep pets away from the table as most of our holiday favourites can be harmful to them
  • Food items wrapped as presents - don’t forget that dogs and cats can sniff these out so if you plan to wrap anything edible make sure you leave it out of reach
  • Alcohol - Under no circumstances should your pet be given any alcohol as it can cause them severe discomfort and can be fatal
  • Chocolate decorations - all chocolate contains theobromine, a chemical that can affect the heart, kidneys and central nervous system of many animals. Dark chocolate and baker's chocolate contain higher concentrations of theobromine and are even more toxic than similar amounts of milk chocolate
  • Coffee and caffeine - contain methylxanthines which when ingested can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, panting, excessive thirst, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rhythm, seizures and even death
  • Sweets, gum and hard candies (including ‘sugar free’ variety and Xylitol)
  • Xylitol- used in many products - Initial signs of toxicosis include vomiting, lethargy and loss of coordination and can progress to seizures and liver failure 
  • Macadamia nuts, almonds, pecans and walnuts - macadamia nuts can cause weakness, depression, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia in dogs. The high fats in nuts fats can cause vomiting and diarrhoea, and potentially pancreatitis in pets
  • Avocado - particularly harmful for birds, rabbits, donkeys, horses, and ruminants including sheep and goats.
  • Raw/undercooked meat, eggs and bones and make sure not to give your pet any turkey or chicken bones
  • Bread/yeast dough - if eaten before baking, can expand rapidly and cause ethanol poisoning
  • Grapes, raisins and sultanas 
  • Onions, garlic and chives
  • Coconut Water - should not be given to pets
  • Aspirin, Acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories
  • Prescription medications and illegal drugs
  • Plants - Poinsettias, holly and mistletoe. Think carefully before placing mistletoe or holly in low-lying areas. Holly and mistletoe can cause gastrointestinal upset and cardiovascular problems when ingested
  • Lilies - Lilies are one of the most poisonous houseplants that exist. Lily toxicity in cats can reach critical levels almost immediately after ingestion or even from contact with the flowers and leaves. If a cat licks or eats any part of the plant, seek treatment immediately
  • Tinsel - Aside from being a choking hazard, ingested tinsel can cause severe vomiting, obstruct the digestive tract, cause dehydration and could require surgery
  • Electrical wires and cords - keep them tucked away safely to prevent pets from chewing through a live wire
  • Glass and plastic ornaments - are very tempting to play with! Keep them out of reach
  • Candles - a long tail or curious pet can knock over a candle and potentially start a fire or may seriously burn themselves
  • Christmas trees and pine water - Be sure to keep your tree tightly secured to prevent it tipping or falling over. Keep tree water covered and inaccessible as the water that stands at the base of the tree may contain fertiliser and other harmful chemicals. Bacteria in the water may also cause nausea, diarrhoea or stomach upset
  • Noisemakers - loud noises, noisemakers and celebratory poppers can be very scary to pets. Create a quiet haven for them where they can feel safe
  • Anti-freeze for automobiles - antifreeze can taste sweet but is very deadly

In the event an animal has ingested a toxic substance or object, or has sustained an injury, do not wait. Seek immediate veterinary advice and be prepared to get the animal to the nearest veterinary clinic.  Do not try to diagnose the issue yourself using the internet or by calling a human poison control centre as the treatment for poisoning in humans can be very different from that for animals.  Getting appropriate background information about the animal is critical to a veterinarian preparing a treatment plan for a particular toxin. Remember that every case and every animal is different. Remember, it’s easy to include your pets in the festivities and keep them happy and safe by being mindful of potential risks and planning ahead.


The original article may be found here. I contributed this article to Trusted HouseSitters, a global house and pet-sitting company. There are many foods and items which can pose a danger to our pets, not only during the holidays, but all year round. It's always good to keep the above list handy.