What we call the Festival of Lights could turn into a festival of frights if you’re not paying attention when it comes to the safety of your dog, cat, bird or other animals, according to Pet Sitters International.
In fact, for the first time ever, the North Carolina-based educational association for professional pet sitters has issued tips to the public on how to keep your pet safe during Chanukah.
Local pet sitters agree that the temptation for the four-legged members of your family to play with a lit menorah, swallow a dreidel or have one too many latkes can’t be ignored.
“There’s never a time when pet safety shouldn’t be at the forefront of your mind,” said Adina Silberstein, owner of Queenie’s Pets in Mount Airy. “But the holiday brings special concerns.
“Generally, there’s a lot of news about the danger of Christmas trees. But you may not think about a burning menorah where a dog or cat can get into it. Cats tend to get into things because they can jump and have the ability to get on a surface where a menorah may be. Then they can knock it over, starting a fire.”
Of course, legend has it that Mrs. O’Leary’s cow rather than Mrs. Goldstein’s cat started the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. But that doesn’t mean you should leave your menorah on the edge of the table — especially if it’s glass or metal and could injure an unsuspecting pet if it fell.
By the same token, pay close attention to what they eat, keeping in mind something we consider a treat — chocolate — can be quite harmful to a pet, even fatal, if they eat too much of it.
So no chocolate Chanukah gelt.
“Caffeine is the problem,” explained Silberstein, whose company services some 400 homes. “Dark chocolate is even worse. It’s toxic and goes to their brain.
“If a dog eats chocolate, look for symptoms of lethargy. But there’s a big difference between a Yorkie eating a piece of chocolate and a Rottweiler. So take your dog into account and, if you have puppies, be aware of dreidels. They can be easily swallowed.”
Her friend and fellow pet sitting colleague Jean Brillman of Angel Pet Sitting, which has offices in Norristown and Jenkintown, said dogs are much more likely to choke on a dreidel or wax candle than cats.
“Dogs are three to four more times likely to choke on something or get into things,” explained Brillman, whose business services as many as 300 clients annually. “Cats are very picky and persnickety. But a cat on a counter could knock over a menorah.
“A lot of foods are toxic: chocolate, grapes, raisins and xylitol, which is found in sugarless gum. Keep them away from your pet.”
While you’re at, it hold the onions — please.
“Generally, the onion family is to be kept away from dogs,” said Silberstein, who said if you’re going to give your pet a latke, make sure it’s onion-free. “Onions can cause liver problems. Worse, if they’re eaten raw.
“It’s important to instruct people not to panic. You don’t need to rush to the vet if your dog eats a single latke. Remember, dogs are scavengers. Their bodies can process a fair amount of food.”
For the most part, the answer is simple.
“They can have a little taste,” said Brillman, who’s also a pet first aid and CPR instructor. “But dogs should eat only their treats. It’s typically not good for them to have jelly donuts or other stuff like that.”
It’s also not good for our feathered friends to be too close to a lit menorah.
“People who have birds and small caged animals should not burn candles near the pet,” Silberstein warned. “They have extremely sensitive lungs and can get sick from the smoke or beeswax from the candles.
“Keep them at least 20 feet away.”
The bottom line is that while Chanukah is a time of celebration, it’s also a time when your pet may be at risk — especially if you’re not factoring them into the equation.
“Much like toddlers, pets are attracted to anything that dangles, sparkles, glows or shines,” said Beth Stultz, PSI’s vice president of marketing. “These items should be kept out of their reach.”
That will help ensure your festival of lights shines brightly for everyone on two legs — and four.
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