From Across the Field – Home Holiday Hazards

Looking forward at the weather forecast, it looks like winter is finally going to take hold. It looks like daytime highs will only be in the 30s for quite some time. As the ground becomes frozen that will allow for any remain harvest to continue, while bringing a halt to tillage and manure application. The recent snow has helped put me in the Christmas spirit as long I don’t have to travel too far in it.  I am also looking forward to the shortest day of the year in a couple weeks, so at least we can start to have daylight. It will be nice to leave the office with some daylight to burn.

Looking back, it was a challenging, yet fairly decent year for agriculture in Henry county. Crops and livestock did fairly well, except for prices, and we also had some challenges, especially with invasive weeds and a couple of wet weather stints in the county.

As we start decorating and making tasty food for the holiday season, keep pet safety in mind. As I remember from an animal nutrition course in college, a too-close encounter with holiday favorites may lead to an emergency for your favorite pet as the holidays can be a dangerous time for dogs and cats in the home.

Foods that are tasty human treats during holiday parties can be dangerously toxic for dogs. Chocolate, especially dark or baker’s chocolate, consumed in large quantities, can make our canine pals ill. Grapes and raisins can also be dangerous as well as certain sugar substitutes (xylitol) used in baking and found in sugar-free gum. Keep your pet in mind when positioning foods for guests, and place items out of reach as much as possible.

Determining if your pet might need a trip to a veterinary emergency room requires the owners to watch for behavioral changes. Signs of toxin exposure include vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, change in behavior, trembling, twitching, and seizure. Owners should call their family veterinarian if they are concerned.

Speaking of safety, it seems every year tragedy strikes when a home burns down around Christmas. In some cases, this can be avoided. As one could expect, candles are one of the most common causes of house fires. So during this time of the year, make sure we do not have lit candles near trees, other greens, decorations, or wrapping paper. Also, place candles where they cannot be blown over or knocked down. While they are wonderful to have, be very careful with them.

If you have a fresh tree, make sure it has plenty of water. With lights, check the cord for cracks or exposed wire. Use no more than three standard-size sets of light per single extension cord. Never use lights on a metallic tree, as the tree can become charged from a faulty light, and a person could be shocked or electrocuted.

Plan for safety, and use common sense. Look for and eliminate potential danger spots near candles, fireplaces, trees, and electrical connections, and have a safe and prosperous holiday season. My mother annually reminds me of a lapse of common sense during the Christmas season from my younger, more reckless days. As learned through personal trial and error, do not try to change a fuse in a lit set of Christmas lights with a screwdriver, as it will be a shocking experience.

Finally, speaking of Christmas and looking back, I will end up today’s column with a quote from Winston Churchill: “Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing but of reflection.”
Garth Ruff,
Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Educator
OSU Henry County Extension

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