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Bread dough ornaments can be cut or molded into festive shapes. Flattened out circles can serve as the backdrop for the impression of a tiny hand or a paw, marking a special year in the life of a family member, and then allowing you to look back in time thoughtfully reminiscing.

Did you know however, that these attractive family traditions can turn joy into a tragedy if ingested?  The large amount of salt in the recipe, not to mention the paint and glitter that is often added or the hook the ornament may be hung by, can be deadly to your dog! Cats too can suffer from eating bread dough ornaments, yet they are less likely to actually consume the decoration.

Salt toxicity, also known as hypernatremia, can result in the death of your furry companion. Signs to watch for include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lack of coordination
  • Excessive thirst and urination
  • Tremors, seizures
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Collapse

If it is a family tradition to create these ornaments, be sure that you place salt dough ornaments high on the tree where pets cannot reach them, and secure ornaments well so that they cannot topple down.  If your pet consumes a dough ornament, contact your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline at once, as administration of fluids, electrolyte monitoring and veterinary care will be needed to save your best friend’s life.

Although labeled non-toxic, non-allergenic and even non-irritating, it is important to note that children’s Playdoh is also made primarily of the same three ingredients: water, salt, and flour, so if ingested by pets, the same ill effects can result. Keep out of paws reach!

As for the trees on which you hang your festive ornaments, there are important considerations as well to keep dogs and cats safe:

Step One: Prepare your Pets

Many dogs and cats consider trees to be objects on which they normally answer nature’s call, and now these objects are being brought in indoors?  That can be a bit confusing, so you may want to leave your tree undecorated for a day or two, teaching pets to stay away before you decorate. Also, choose the location wisely.  Do not place your tree in front of the window Fido watches for the mailman from or the window sill kitty suns herself daily. To keep pets away, a short white picket fence placed around the tree could look festive, or a repetitive “no” might do the trick. 

Step Two: Prepare the Tree

To further dog or cat-proof your tree, try bitter scented sprays or even citrus, placing oranges, lemons or grapefruit underneath, but only if you know these scents are abhorrent to your pet.   You can also attach the tree, with an invisible fishing line, to a cup hook in your ceiling, so it won’t topple to the ground should your cat climb up, but do your best to keep kitties off.  There is the danger of burns from lights and getting tangled in cords, and never ever even consider placing candles on trees if you share your life with pets or children!  

Step Three: Remove Hazards

Speaking of electric cords, tape them down so no one trips, and supervise pets when lights or any fixtures are plugged in. Train well so that dogs and cats learn not to chew on cords.

Step Four: Exercise Caution for Pet Safety

Never tempt pets by hanging dog biscuits, popcorn garlands, candy canes or other food items on your tree.  Also, take care with scented packages (food, soaps, potpourri, etc.) placed underneath as well as the ribbons they are wrapped with, tinsel, ornament hooks, and string.  Any of these objects inside your dog or cat spells harm. 

Step Five: Keep an Eye on your Pets

Real trees require water, so cover the water bowl securely with foil, plastic wrap or a plastic lid with an “X” through which the trunk goes through.  Should your pet drink from the tree water, the oils seeping into it are toxic! Additionally, the trunk was likely coated with preservatives and pesticides, so your pet will get sick and need quick veterinary care! Pine and fir needles are sharp and can cause digestive upsets, so pick up any needles that drop before your pet ingests them or gets needles caught in a paw or fur. Fake needles aren’t safe either if consumed, so monitor pets around ALL holiday decor.  

When you have a dog or cat, you have a furry toddler for their lifetime, so being mindful of potential problems and keeping dangers out of paws and claws reach can keep the merry in your holiday season.  

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances. 

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.