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Marianne Lipanovich

Marianne Lipanovich is a Houzz Contributor. I'm a California-based writer and editor. While most of my projects are garden-based, you might also find be writing about home projects and classical music. Away from the computer, I'm found in the garden (naturally), on my bike, or ice-skating outdoors (yes, that is possible in California). I'm also willing to taste-test anything that's chocolate.

Dog's Life: Home & Garden
How to Keep Your Pets Safe During the Holidays
To avoid an unwanted trip to the vet, be aware of these holiday-related hazards for dogs
Delicate Creatures, original photo on Houzz

If you’re a pet owner, you’re probably aware of the things you need to do to keep your pets safe around your home. But as the holidays approach, you may have to step up your game a bit to make sure your celebrations aren’t interrupted by a pet-related crisis. A big problem is pets eating something they shouldn’t. Another concern is that in the confusion of guests and celebrating, pets can easily get out and get lost. Candles and holiday decorations can be dangerous temptations for a pet too. So while you’re celebrating, watch out for the following to ensure that your good times are also good for your dogs and cats.

Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season for most people in the United States. For pet owners it marks the start of the season when extra vigilance is required, especially when it comes to dogs and food. 

Houzzers have stories galore about dogs eating the turkey (bones and all), the foil and string it was wrapped in, and even the oil it was fried in. Side dishes and desserts are equally tempting. The happy confusion of a holiday meal with family and friends creates plentiful opportunities for a dog or cat to snag some human food. So keeping pets and food separated is always a good idea. 

Even if your pets are normally well behaved, the noise and confusion of the holiday may be difficult them, and they could seek to escape if given an opportunity. Finding a quiet and secure place for pets away from festivities is a good idea.

 

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Christmas comes with a long list of possible problems. Ornaments can get broken, creating a danger of cuts, or can be swallowed. The hooks they hang on can also cause problems if swallowed, as can tinsel. Bubbling lights and fire salts may contain toxic chemicals, while the spun glass that constitutes angel hair can irritate skin and eyes and is dangerous if eaten.

Other dangers are typical holiday plants, such as mistletoe, lilies, holly and Christmas rose, which can cause gastrointestinal distress at the very least. Candles and open fireplaces can harm pets if they get too close to the flames and ashes or, in the case of candles, overturn them. Even the tree water, which can be stagnant or contain preservatives, can cause upset stomachs and worse. And you shouldn’t use a ribbon as a collar; pets can easily get them caught on something and choke.

 

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Of course, this means your holiday decorating may need some adjustments, such as placing the tree and cherished family heirlooms out of reach. 

My family has done just that. For the past three Christmases, we’ve encircled our Christmas tree with a dog fence, keeping the tree, ornaments and wrapped presents safe until the holiday. Since it looks like this may be a continuing issue, I’m already exploring ideas for tastefully and safely decorating the fencing next December.

 

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When it comes to Hanukkah, keep an eye on any small gift objects or toys and the chocolate coins, which can tempt pets and create problems for them.

Ringing out the old year and ringing in the new is a happy tradition for many on New Year’s Eve, but a skittish cat or dog may be overwhelmed by the noise and confusion. And while balloons and confetti add to the festivities, they can cause internal problems if your dog or cat eats them.

 

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The same general rules apply to other holidays and other celebrations, especially birthday parties. 

Chocolate and xylitol-sweetened gum are harmful or toxic to pets, and other candies aren’t good for them. Candles can be a problem, as pets can knock them over or can be burned by them, while dangling decorations and balloons can be tempting to play with or try to eat. Small trinkets, fake grass and many popular plants given as gifts, including tulips, daffodils and lilies, should also be kept out of your pet’s reach. 

Fireworks can be a major problem for pets on the Fourth of July. Some animals do fine; others are freaked out by the noise. If your pets are nervous, ask your vet for antianxiety medications designed for animals. You may need to start some ahead of time. 

Remember that pets can become overexcited and act out or run away when things are chaotic, such as during a party or on the Fourth of July or Halloween. You might want to find them a safe and quiet spot indoors and away from the activities, even if they normally live or spend time outside.

Dog's Life: Home & Garden
Dog-Proofing Your Home: A Room-by-Room Guide
Not all dog dangers are obvious. Keep furry friends safe and sound by handling all of these potential hazards
Pet proofing your home for your dog and cats

Everyone who gets a dog or cat soon learns that a certain amount of vigilance goes with pet ownership. Puppies and kittens especially can get into everything and escape through the tiniest opening. Some of the better-known dangers are toxic plants and food. But do you know about the other dangers that might lurk in your home and garden? From the bathroom and laundry room to the office, kitchen, garage and even the great outdoors, there are some expected and unexpected hazards your pet might face.

There is good news. First, a lot of these potential dangers are things your pet will probably ignore. More good news: You can easily take care of most of these potential problems. Some of the rules are simply common sense: Keep small objects and items that can be easily eaten or swallowed out of their way. As for other dangers, just look around from your pet’s point of view and see what might be tempting and troublesome. Consider pet-proofing your home to be much like baby-proofing; you’re simply making sure that pets and possible problems don’t mix.

Also remember, while dogs may seem to be more trouble-prone than cats, cats can get into far more — and higher — spaces in your home.

There’s even a bonus to these precautions: a tidier house. Storing things safely away after using them also turns out to be much easier than coaxing them away from a pet determined to destroy them, or even worse, making an emergency trip to the vet. And it will leave you with much more room for you and your pet to play with the things that are safe.

Kitchens. Food is, of course, the most common kitchen-related problem. The best-known problem food is probably chocolate, but other possibly toxic foods include avocados, grapes and raisins, macadamia nuts, onions, garlic and coffee. Other things to watch out for are sharp knives and little things like twist ties that can easily be swallowed.

You may want to install a door or gate to keep animals out of the kitchen while you’re cooking. If it looks as nice as this, it’s a bonus.

Bathrooms and laundry rooms. Some hazards are obvious: cleansers, detergents, fabric softeners, bleach, medications, vitamins and even dental floss can all be dangerous if eaten or swallowed.

Dogs in particular may be tempted to chew on, and potentially swallow, towels and stray socks (and you were blaming the dryer for eating them), which can lead to severe gastrointestinal problems.

There are some other dangers in the bathroom and laundry area that you might overlook. In addition to the “yuck” factor, drinking out of the toilet isn’t good for pets, especially if you use chemical cleansers. Sinks and tubs filled with water and left unattended can pose a drowning hazard for small pets.

Washers and dryers can be a tempting spot for a nap, especially for cats, and you may not notice them if you put in a load of clothes. Keep the doors on appliances closed.

 

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Gathering areas. There generally aren’t too many dangers lurking in these rooms, but there are a few possible trouble spots. The fireplace is a big one; pets can be harmed by flames and flying ashes. A simple screen is probably all you need.

Another overlooked danger is fire-starter sticks. They’re somewhat sweet, and some dogs can’t resist eating them.

Wires and cords can also be a problem; chewing on a plugged-in cord can electrocute a pet. Tucking cords away or covering them will keep them out of your pet’s way and also will leave your room looking neater.

As a general precaution, put anything you value or anything that’s a chewing or choking hazard (puzzle pieces, small toys and so on) out of reach when you’re not around.

 

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Open doors and windows are great for letting in fresh air, but not great if they tempt your animal out into a world of cars and other dangers.

Be sure that if pets can get out, they’ll be heading into a safe place, such as a fenced yard. Otherwise, screens are a great compromise. You can even find ones that are almost invisible.

Bedrooms. Aside from the danger of a puppy’s chewing on your good shoes, bedrooms are generally fairly benign when it comes to pet danger. But to be on the safe side, keep jewelry, hair clips, pins and bands away from exploring pets.

One potential serious hazard, though, is mothballs. They’re toxic, so if you use them, be sure they’re in a place your pet absolutely can’t reach.

Areas with odds and ends. Everyday objects such as batteries, buttons, coins, paper clips and rubber bands can all cause problems if chewed or swallowed. If you’re into crafts, be sure sharp objects, including needles, are out of reach. Plastic bags and plastic wrap can cause suffocation.

 

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Garages and basements. These are storage areas for lots of things, including things that can be a problem if your pets get into them. The simple solution is to keep things like pesticides, gasoline, solvents, antifreeze, coolants and oils either high up or in a closed cabinet. The same is true for small things, like screws, nuts, bolts and nails.

If you live in a snowy climate, be aware that de-icing compounds may also contain dangerous chemicals, so look for ones that are safe for pets.

 

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The great outdoors. Just as food in the kitchen can be a problem for pets, so can plants in the garden. There are any number of plants that can cause problems; for some of the most common ones, see the Houzz guide, 22 Plants to Keep Away From Pets.

Compost, cocoa-based mulches, pesticides, insecticides, fertilizers and other garden chemicals can all cause problems for pets. Your first line of defense is keeping things stored away safely and out of reach.

 

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Traditional snail and slug bait is also toxic. If you need to keep your vegetables and other plants safe from these mauraders, look for barrier methods or pet-friendly bait formulations.

Balconies may seem safe, but it’s easy for small pets to slip through the railings or get stuck halfway. Of course, it also would be hard to resist this railing, even if your cat could get over or around it.

 

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Be sure latticework is in good repair as well, so pets won’t get stuck or crawl into spaces where they shouldn’t go.

 

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Just as fireplaces can be a danger indoors, ashes and flames from fire pits and barbecues can be hazardous. Keep an eye on both the fire and your pets, and if you’re barbecuing, keep the lighter fluid out of reach.

 

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Chemicals are an obvious source of trouble if pets drink from pools and spas, but there are other dangers as well. Even if pets can swim, they can still drown in pools and spas if they can’t get out. Long, low steps may help, but your best approach is to keep pets away from the water, either with covers or fencing or by keeping them inside unless accompanied.

As with pools and spas, ponds might pose a problem if a pet falls in and can’t get out. A sloping side to a pond will provide better footing and give your pond a more natural look.

Ponds are also prone to forming algae, which may be toxic by itself or because of the chemicals added to destroy it.

Dog's Life: Home & Garden
8 Great Backyard Ideas to Delight Your Dog
These dog-friendly landscape and garden ideas will keep your pooch safe, happy and well exercised outdoors

A dog or dogs happily romping in the backyard is a classic dog-owner dream. Achieving this, though, takes more thought than just sending your dog out in the yard and hoping for the best. Take the time to make sure your yard provides your dog with the amenities he or she needs and loves. Fortunately, pet-friendly yard amenities are also great for people as well.

 

Modern Landscape by Pleasant Hill Landscape Architects & Landscape Designers Huettl Landscape Architecture

 

1. Keep the water flowing. Fresh water, and plenty of it, is essential. Why not take this opportunity to add a water feature to your landscape that your dog can access? A splash fountain or stream is ideal, and you’ll enjoy it, too.

A small pond or pool is another option, especially for water-loving dogs. But before you build or even allow access to an existing pool, do a safety check. Dogs should be able to get out easily if they fall in. This means a gently sloping side or easily accessible shallow steps.

 

Traditional Landscape by Evanston Landscape Architects & Landscape Designers Pat Bernard Design, Inc.  

2. Consider safety first. Dogs may have descended from free-ranging wolves, but our domesticated friends do best with boundaries. You might opt for a fully fenced backyard or a dog run within a larger area. Either way, you’ll know your dog is both happy and safe.

A chain-link fence is easy to install and provides a safe enclosure, but it isn’t necessarily the most attractive approach. As an alternative, consider a fencing material that matches your landscape style, whether you’re opting for a fully enclosed yard or a dog run. Go with picket fences for a cottage design, sleek horizontal boards for a contemporary look or posts and wire for a rustic feel.

No matter what style you choose, make sure it is sturdy enough to contain your family friend and designed so a curious dog can’t get stuck between the boards.

Traditional Landscape by San Anselmo Landscape Architects & Landscape Designers Avant Garden  

3. Provide readily available shade and shelter. This is another essential, as dogs can get sunburn and suffer from heatstroke. A large tree or trees will provide shade, but if trees aren't possible, look into overhead tarps and shade cloths that stretch over part of the area.

If there’s room, add a doghouse. They’ve come a long way from plastic boxes, as a quick look in a pet store or online catalog will show you. Browse some fantasy doghouses here and here.

4. Keep your landscaping toxin free. Some common plants are surprisingly dangerous if dogs eat them, including azaleas, lilies and mums. Check with your vet and the ASPCA for a list of plants that can irritate or even kill your pet. Landscaping materials and chemical controls can also cause problems. While mulch is a great choice for a garden and mostly soft on paws, steer clear of cocoa mulch. The smell may be great, but if your dog eats it, it can cause the same bad reactions as chocolate.

Many baits for snails, rats and other pests can be fatal. If you must use them, make sure your dog can’t get at them — and remember, dogs can be remarkably tenacious when it comes to getting at something you don’t want them to get at.

 

Traditional Exterior by Cambridge Architects & Building Designers LDa Architecture & Interiors  

5. Have a place for play. A tired dog is a good dog, whereas an unexercised or bored dog will look for trouble. Provide space where your dog can run and chase, and you will have far fewer problems. Make the space as large as possible to keep your dog entertained.

 

Traditional Landscape by Atlanta Landscape Architects & Landscape Designers Home & Garden Design, Atlanta - Danna Cain, ASLA  

6. Add some paths. Dogs love to prowl and patrol, so paths to explore are as much fun for them as they are for people.

7. Choose comfortable materials. Landscaping materials shouldn't get too hot, should be easy to walk on and ideally should not cling to fur and feet. Concrete, brick, flagstone, pebbles and smooth rocks are all good choices.

Mulch (except cocoa mulch) and small bark chips are dog friendly and won’t heat up too much, though you’ll have to replace them periodically.

Lawns are another choice, though they may be destroyed more easily than harder materials. Artificial turf is also gaining in popularity. If you go that route, check that it doesn't become too hot for tender paws.

 

Contemporary Pet Supplies  

8. Add extra features. If your dog is friendly and curious but not prone to barking at everything that goes by, you might want to create a window in a fence or gate for watching the outside world.

If your pup would prefer to survey his or her personal kingdom instead, a designated sitting spot or large flat rock might be just the right thing.

Contemporary Landscape by San Francisco Landscape Architects & Landscape Designers Randy Thueme Design Inc. - Landscape Architecture  

Another option is to create a fun play area. Take a hint from dog play courses and consider using plants and hardscaping to create obstacles to weave through, balance beams to walk on or tunnels to roam through. The one shown here is also people size, but you can always create one that’s just dog size. It can be your pet’s hiding spot. Even dogs sometimes need to get away from it all.