Christmas is a wonderful time to be with family and friends. The chaos of Christmas can sometimes be overwhelming to our pets. Let’s do our best to be sure that our pets are safe from holiday hazards.

If you have a cat and a tree you already know that you’re in for an adventure. Christmas trees need to be secured and real trees should have the water stands covered.

Holiday plants like mistletoe, holly and poinsettias can be toxic to pets if ingested. Cats love to play with plants. If possible, opt for artificial plants, but if you want real plants, keep them up and away from pets. Spraying some bitter apple or lemon juice on the plant may keep your cat and dog away from it.

I learned the hard way that tinsel looks good enough to eat. In 1983, my first puppy ate most of the tinsel icicles off the bottom of my first Christmas tree. Luckily, he didn’t get sick. Tinsel can lodge in a pet’s digestive tract and require surgery to remove it. So please, watch your pets to be sure they aren’t eating anything off the tree.

In all the chaos of ripping papers and squealing children it might be best to put your pet in a quiet room to rest, especially if it is an older pet. This way it won’t become stressed.

Never give your dog or cat poultry bones. Bones from chickens and turkeys are thin and splinter easily. These can become lodged in your pet’s throat and choke them to death.

When it comes to leftovers, it's best not to share with your pet. Turkey and ham are rich meats and can make a pet sick. Other side dishes like dressing may contain ingredients that can harm your pet.

Most of us already know that chocolate is toxic to pets and this is the time of the year for chocolate fudge. This and other goodies smell so inviting to our pets. Keep sweets away from your pets, especially things made with chocolate or artificial sweeteners which can kill them. Xylitol is particularly deadly to dogs. If you have a big dog that is a “counter surfer” be sure to keep all foods in a safe place.

The best thing to do is to give your pet some new treats for Christmas. There is a huge variety of treats at the local pet stores. Some of them look like human cookies. One of the guys at ABF once mistook one of these dog cookies for a human cookie. He said they tasted pretty good.

If you’re serving cocktails be sure to keep the alcohol away from your pets. If your pet drinks alcohol it can become sick and possibly go into a coma.

Most of us look at our pets as family and want them to be with us during the holidays. This is fine, but we need to watch out for their safety as well as our children’s. No one wants to spend any time during the holidays at the animal emergency room worried about your sick pet.

Please take precautions and keep your pets safe. This is a joyful time of year that shouldn’t be ruined by a trip to the emergency room.

ABF is looking for volunteers for various jobs at their rescue facility, who are dependable, hard-working individuals and have a love for animals. If interested, go to www.animalsbestfriends.org or call 816-863-1036.

-- Learn about pets and related topics at http://www.catsdogsandpolliwogs.com.