The festive holiday season can be a period of heightened tension and risk for pets.
In these weeks filled with rich foods, shiny decorations and the hubbub of guests coming and going, it's often overlooked that Christmas and New Year's celebrations can pose a danger to cats and dogs.
Employees at the Lawrence Humane Society, 1805 E. 19th St., spend time during the holidays educating pet owners about ways to ensure the safety of their animals amid all the parties.
Stacy Hoobler, the shelter's operations manager, offered some suggestions.
"Make sure that you keep plants like poinsettias and mistletoe away from pets, because they're poisonous," she said. "Cats and puppies like to chew on things, and it can be dangerous to them.
"Never leave candles burning when you're not home, and keep them out of your pet's reach. They could knock them over and start a fire."
Cats curious by nature could also get too close to the flame and burn their whiskers.
Decorations and Christmas trees are another risk, according to Hoobler.
"I don't put tinsel on my tree, because if pets ingest that, it could get tangled in their intestines and cause serious problems requiring surgery," said Hoobler, who has two dogs and two cats.
Christmas trees are especially attractive to cats. They seem to view the bushy foliage as their own personal scratching post.
"My cat climbs my tree," she said. "I have the top of it anchored to the wall so she can't knock it over. I tie a string around it, and nail (the string) to the wall."
It's also important to be careful about the fluids you put into the Christmas tree stand. Don't add any long-life preservatives to the water; they contain chemicals that are harmful to pets.
"My cats suck my Christmas tree stand dry every day, so I put sugar water in there," Hoobler said. "It extends the tree's life, and it won't harm the cats."
Another big problem during the holidays is all the tasty food that's around.
"Keep an eye on your pets," she said. "Don't give in to the temptation to stuff them. And chocolate is definitely a no-no. A chemical in it can be poisonous to them.
"In general, people food is high in fat and sodium, and it's just not good for pets. I keep dog and cat treats in my kitchen to feed them when I'm cooking."
Same goes for throwing a juicy bone to Fido: Don't do it.
"(Splinters from) bones can lodge in an animal's throat or digestive tract," Hoobler said.
It's best to just keep pets on the same diet they're used to, according to William Bayouth, a veterinarian at Animal Hospital of Lawrence, 701 Mich.
"It's not a good idea to feed them table scraps," he said. "They can have vomiting and diarrhea, and it can just add to the common weight problem for pets."