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Recognizing Holiday Hazards: 5 seasonal safety tips for pet owners

The holiday season presents opportunities for celebrating with loved ones, and for many families, that includes their dogs and cats. However, holiday foods and decorations can pose health risks for pets and the hustle and bustle may be overwhelming.



(Family Features) The holiday season presents opportunities for celebrating with loved ones, and for many families, that includes their dogs and cats. However, holiday foods and decorations can pose health risks for pets and the hustle and bustle may be overwhelming.

To help keep your pet safe amid the jolly chaos, consider these potential hazards from the experts at VCA Animal Hospitals, which has more than 1,000 locations across North America that cared for more than 4.5 million pets last year.

Decorations are part of almost every holiday celebration but making some pet-proofed choices can make your home safe for four-legged guests as well. If you put up a tree (live or artificial), ensure it’s set up securely and use shatter-proof ornaments, ideally hung above tail height and out of paws’ reach. If you have kittens less than 1 year old in your home, they sometimes like to climb up the tree trunk to the top, so extra care may be needed. Hang smaller ornaments toward the top of the tree to reduce potential choking hazards and avoid salt dough ornaments, which may look like a snack to pets but can cause electrolyte problems, and tinsel as it can become lodged in a pet’s gut and cause issues.

Additionally, consider battery-operated candles instead of real ones, which can be easily knocked over by curious pets and burn them or lead to more serious fire risks. Dangling cords from seasonal decor can also appeal to pets, and if chewed while plugged in could result in electrical shock or burn to the tongue, so secure them out of sight and unplug when not in use.

With the holidays comes a delicious variety of baked goods, chocolate confections and other rich foods. However, some of those seasonal goodies can present problems for pets. For example, chocolate and cocoa contain theobromine, a chemical similar to caffeine that’s highly toxic to both dogs and cats. Ingestion in small amounts can cause vomiting and diarrhea, but large amounts can cause seizures and heart arrhythmias.

Other traditional holiday mainstays such as fruitcakes, breads and cookies that contain grapes, raisins or currants can cause kidney failure in dogs. Sugarless gums and candies may contain xylitol, a natural sweetener, which can cause serious conditions like dangerously low blood sugar and liver failure in dogs. Leftover fatty meat scraps can produce severe inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), leading to abdominal pain, vomiting and bloody diarrhea.


Although live trees are non-toxic, their needles do not digest well, and their water may contain bacteria, mold or fertilizer that should not be ingested. Additionally, poinsettias, which often have a bad reputation among pet owners, can cause upset stomachs if the leaves are ingested though it’s typically milder than the symptoms associated with holly, mistletoe and amaryllis. Daffodils, lilies and narcissi are also toxic to pets.

An increase in visitors, ringing of the doorbell and extra excitement of the holiday season can be stressful for pets. Try to keep your four-legged friend’s feeding and exercise schedule as regular as possible, and make time for additional stress-relieving playtime and snuggles. To help avoid overstimulation, it may be best to keep your pets in their own crates or a quiet room with food, water and comfortable bedding while you have company. If you need additional assistance, consult with your veterinarian.

Holiday travel with your four-legged family members requires some extra packing and precautions. If traveling by car, make sure your pet is safely restrained using a secure harness or carrier and placed away from any airbags. Make sure pets are microchipped and their registration is up to date in case you become separated. Never leave pets alone in a vehicle or transport them in the bed of a truck. Also be sure you have updated health certificates from your veterinarian, if required by any states you will visit or pass through, and pack copies of medical records, first aid supplies, food and medications, leashes, collars and favorite toys.

For more tips to make the holidays safe for pets, visit

Photos courtesy of Getty Images

VCA Animal Hospitals

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5 Health Tips to Help You Succeed in the New Year

The new year brings a time to reassess health habits. New Year’s goals and resolutions are often focused on weight loss or exercise. Although these are important indicators of health and happiness for many people, maintaining overall health is important, too.



Photo courtesy of iStock

(Family Features) The new year brings a time to reassess health habits. New Year’s goals and resolutions are often focused on weight loss or exercise. Although these are important indicators of health and happiness for many people, maintaining overall health is important, too.

Registered dietitian, author and nutrition consultant Manuel Villacorta offers these tips to start the new year with a healthy routine:

Photo courtesy of iStock

Create a Meal Plan You’ll Want to Eat
For well-balanced meals, think ahead and plan a weekly menu that matches your taste preferences to stay interested. When you feel like you’re on a diet or being forced to eat something, you’re more likely to stop following the plan. It’s helpful to make something to enjoy together with family or friends and make sticking to a meal plan easier. Manuel suggests:

  1. Making shopping lists to stay organized
  2. Checking your cupboards to avoid overbuying and waste
  3. Scheduling a day of the week to shop

This Ground Chicken and Sweet Potato Skillet is an easy meal plan starter.

(Click image for more information)

Fill in Dietary Gaps with Flavanol Supplements


A balanced diet is key to overall health, including your heart and brain health. In fact, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics released a first-of-its-kind recommendation to eat 400-600 milligrams of flavanols daily to support cardiometabolic health. Flavanols are bioactive compounds found in plant-based foods like cocoa, tea, apples and berries; however, levels can vary across foods, and it can be difficult to get everything you need from food alone.

A flavanol supplement like CocoaVia™ can help fill dietary gaps when you can’t meet the recommendations with food alone. The flavanols in CocoaVia are clinically proven to promote cardiovascular and brain health for the long-term, supporting a strong heart and better memory.* Each Cardio Health product serving provides 500 milligrams of cocoa flavanols in two capsules or one powder scoop. Additionally, Memory+ – containing 750 milligrams of cocoa flavanols per three-capsule serving – is’s Overall Top Pick for cocoa products with the highest concentration of flavanols. Only CocoaVia is made with Cocoapro™ cocoa extract, the most concentrated and clinically proven flavanol extract ingredient on the market.

Try adding CocoaVia capsules to your routine or a scoop of Cardio Health powder to smoothies, coffee or this Cocoa Blueberry Smoothie Bowl. Learn more at

Photo courtesy of iStock

Fuel for Energy

Not having enough energy can impact performance at work and the gym. What you eat can impact your energy levels. Manuel suggests eating every 3-4 hours and including all three macronutrients – carbohydrates, protein and fat – at mealtimes.

For example, many people eat salads with greens and protein, but you can bulk them up with broccoli and carrots for a heartier mix. Aim for meals packed with vitamins, minerals and nutrient-dense foods like grains and starchy vegetables that provide energy.


Photo courtesy of iStock

Make Fiber a Focus

Fiber is a nutrient often overlooked. Soluble fiber helps maintain glucose levels, which are important for your brain to function at its best. Oats, beans and avocados are all good sources of soluble fiber. Including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains can increase your fiber intake and benefit your gut health.

Photo courtesy of iStock

Be Strategic About Stocking Your Kitchen

Making several weekly grocery trips is time consuming and better spent on things like physical activity. Try strategies to get most of what you need in the fewest trips possible like buying bulk beans, grains and pasta. Remember, not everything has to be fresh. Frozen and canned produce are often stored at their peak freshness to offer many of the same nutrients. Choose low-sodium, canned options when possible and rinse before eating.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.


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Consumer Corner

Accessorize New Holiday Tech Gifts with OtterBox



-Deals to Help Reach New Year Goals-

FORT COLLINS, Colo. /PRNewswire/ — Fight the post-holiday blues with a sitewide sale from OtterBox. The more you buy, the bigger your discount on cases, screen and power products to protect your new tech.

“We know some big-ticket items around the holidays may require a new case or power accessories,” said OtterBox CEO JC Richardson. “As the holidays pass and New Year’s resolutions are made, OtterBox wants to be sure a dropped phone or watch doesn’t put you out from achieving those goals.”

Get those new tech gifts protected and powered with accessories from OtterBox – on sale now.

Protect and power up that holiday tech gift with accessories from OtterBox – the perfect gear for the New Year. Get cases, cables, power banks and more from

Add total protection to your device with cases and screen protection from OtterBox. Symmetry Series and Symmetry Series+ cases are super sleek and come in a variety of fun colors and graphics so you can express your personal style every day. Pair with an Amplify Glass screen protector to keep that brilliant device screen looking like new and protected from falls and scratches. For your smaller devices, OtterBox offers an assortment of Apple Watch, AirPod and AirTag cases for protection against daily mishaps while you pursue those new year goals.

OtterBox power products will help you power through. From MagSafe charging stands to 30-watt USB-C to USB-C Premium Pro Fast Chargers, your devices will be powered up every morning before you head out the door. With OtterBox power banks, you never have to worry about your device running out of battery while you are on the go.

Bundle all these items together for big savings to keep your devices going long after the new year—and new you—takes over. OtterBox cases, screen protectors and power products are available now on


About OtterBox:

OtterBox creates bold products that empower connection. From our humble beginnings in a Fort Collins, Colo., garage, we’ve leveraged more than 20 years of experience to become the No. 1-selling smartphone case brand in the U.S.2 We’ve also expanded our portfolio of products to include screen protection, power accessories and business-to-business solutions.

At the core of every OtterBox innovation is the goal of giving. Through the OtterCares Foundation, we invest in programs and projects that inspire kids to be entrepreneurs, philanthropists and makers.

Explore more at

Symmetry Series, Symmetry Series+ are NOT protective against water. Will provide added protection against drops and shock.
2Source: The NPD Group/ U.S. Retail Tracking Service: Cell Phone Device Protection / Units Sold / Jan. 2017 – Jan. 2021



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Tulane expert offers ‘smart’ advice on making and keeping New Year’s resolutions



Newswise — It’s almost 2023, a new year, a new you. You’ve resolved to be thinner, healthier, kinder. You’ve vowed to cook more, read more, exercise more. You’re going to declutter your house, beautify your garden, get out of debt.

There’s only one problem, said Tonya Hansel, PhD, am associate professor of social work at the Tulane University School of Social Work.

“By year’s end, or even February, these personal goals are forgotten, ignored or deemed unattainable,” she said. “The problem with a New Year’s resolution is not lack of will power or self-determination, rather it is with the resolution itself – lofty goals that anyone would find difficult to implement.”

For those making resolutions, Hansel advises to make them SMART — specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound. She uses the example of adopting a healthier lifestyle. A more specific resolution would be to exercise three times a week for at least 30 minutes.

By making it measurable, you can keep track of your progress or setbacks to work on. “Perhaps you measure healthier by three days per week for at least 30 minutes or losing 1 pound per week,” she said.


Making a resolution achievable gets to the attainability of your resolution. “You could join a gym, online workout or weight loss program and identify a friend with similar resolutions to exercise with or to check in with weekly to discuss barriers and successes,” she said.

As for relevance, Hansel said this part of the resolution may change. “Perhaps the relevance is that you want to fit into clothes, receive better health reports or feel or look better,” she said. “If these goals are no longer as important, it may be worth investing your energy into a different resolution.”

Hansel said realistic timing is one of the most important aspects of the resolution because it involves creating positive habits. She said studies show that 21 days is enough to form a habit. So instead of committing to a full year, take it one month at a time.  “This will allow you to reevaluate whether your resolution was achievable and still relevant.”  

Source: Tulane University

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