Halloween displays are starting to pop up around the neighborhood and my son keeps insisting that I start decorating. I love to decorate, but I've been resisting because I know that once I start decorating for fall the boxes just keep shuffling in and out of the basement for the next two months for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Maybe for you it's Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. But the lights and extension cords for air filled pumpkins, tree lights, and outside displays can get out of control. Not to mention that for curious cats and dogs all those cords may be fun to chew on and can be very dangerous.
Let me tell you why.
Animals chew on the strangest things! Causes of destructive chewing can range from teething in puppies and kittens to curiosity, to boredom, and even (surprise!) because of a nutrient deficiency, or rarely, a condition known as pica which causes animals to crave and ingest non-food items.
Whatever the cause for the chewing, it can be dangerous for your pet and for you. As most pet owners know too well, animal teeth can be very sharp, especially puppies and kittens. Just a few bites on an electrical cord can penetrate the plastic covering causing contact with live electrical wires.
If you see your pet being electrocuted do not touch the animal until you unplug the cord or shut off the power or you will be electrocuted.
If you are unable to get to the cord to unplug it from the wall use a broom stick or similar non-conductive object to move your animal away from the cord. Immediately assess your animal to make sure it has a pulse and is breathing. Administer CPR as necessary. Check out this site for more detail on animal CPR. Then immediately take your animal to your family veterinarian, or if it's after hours to Central Veterinary Emergency Services, or a 24 hour animal ER in your area.
Electrocution by chewing on a cord can cause burns to the tongue, gums and lips which may be visible right away or may be painful to the animal, but will take some time to appear. Burns in the mouth can make eating and drinking difficult for your animal. Careful attention should be paid to the amount of food and water being ingested by your pet. Your veterinarian can prescribe pain medicines to relieve your pet's discomfort. Another effect of electrocution may be noncardiogenic pulmonary edema which basically means the lungs fill up with fluid making it difficult for your animal to get enough oxygen. Hospitalization is necessary to administer oxygen and monitor lung function. Antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications may also be necessary. This condition is serious and can vary in outcome depending on the severity and any underlying illness.
So what can you do to protect your pets? If you have animals prone to chewing I would recommend trying to "animal proof" your home like you would for an infant or toddler. Place covers on outlets, move breakable objects away from edges, put away socks, shoes, underwear, etc.
But I digress, lets talk about electrical cords. I found two websites with products that look very promising. CritterCord has heavy gauge electrical cord covers that have a bitter coating and fit around various size cords. Their product was rated as a favorite by Cat Fancy in 2008. OnLineOrganizing.com has transparent floor cord protectors that can keep all your cords tidy while protecting them from sharp teeth. They even have a decorating suggestion of running Christmas lights through the center to create a nice glow in low light areas. Home Depot has a similar product called "wiremold" that comes in varying colors and lengths. You might also try stringing the cords higher or placing a throw rug over extension cords. If you will be away from your home for any length of time consider unplugging as many cords as possible.
The moral of the story...pretty and safe go together like chocolate and peanut butter.