by Dr. Karen Becker – December 16, 2013
The holidays are a joyous time, but the season does bring its own set of dangers for pets. Keep your furry family member away from these items to ensure a merry holiday for all.
If you think your pet has been harmed by or consumed one of these items, contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) immediately. There is a free mobile app you can download too at http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/apcc-mobile-app
- TABLE SCRAPS: Resist the urge to feed holiday table scraps to your dog or cat, and make sure your pet doesn’t gain access to tables or counter tops loaded with edible goodies. Rich, fatty foods can cause everything from mild indigestion to a serious case of pancreatitis in susceptible pets. Turkey bones and any cooked bones are also a no-no because they can splinter or break apart, puncturing or blocking internal organs.
- CHOCOLATE & BAKED GOODS MADE WITH XYLITOL: The chemical in chocolate that is toxic to dogs and cats is the obromine, a caffeine-like compound. The darker the chocolate, the more the obromine it contains, so be especially careful when using baker’s and semi-sweet chocolate. Xylitol, a sugar substitute, is very often used in sugar-free baked goods (in addition to a number of other products). Xylitol is very dangerous for dogs. Even a small amount can cause vomiting, lethargy, loss of coordination, seizures, and liver failure.
- HOLIDAY PLANTS: Nothing says Christmas like a beautiful poinsettia or some mistletoe around the house. Unfortunately, there are many holiday plants that are toxic for cats and dogs. So before you pick up that festive holiday greenery at the local market, make sure it’s safe for your pet. Visit the ASPCA Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants web page to learn which plants to avoid. Or opt for silk or plastic greenery instead.
- ADULT BEVERAGES & TIPSY ADULTS: Your pet should never ingest alcoholic beverages. Liquor, beer and wine can make your furry, feathered or finned family member quite ill, causing vomiting, diarrhea, disorientation, lethargy, lack of coordination, difficulty breathing, tremors, seizures, coma, and even death. We also recommend you keep your pet a safe distance from over-imbibing guests. If the celebration is getting lively, it’s your cue to remove your pet to a safe, quiet location in your house.
- TINSEL & RIBBONS: These shiny holiday decorations look wonderful, but they can cause serious health issues for your cat or dog. Never wrap tinsel or ribbon around your pet’s neck — it poses a choking hazard. And if swallowed, tinsel, ribbon and other decorations can cut up the digestive tract and cause intestinal obstruction.
- ELECTRICAL CORDS: Some pets love to chew electrical cords, so all those colorful holiday lights strung up around the house mean additional hazards. Chewed electrical cords can cause burns in and around your dog’s or cat’s mouth, difficulty breathing, seizures, and cardiac arrest. Place electrical cords, wires and batteries out of your pet’s reach to prevent a potentially deadly electrical shock or burns from a punctured battery. To protect pets, turn off lights and unplug them when you aren’t home.
- CANDLES: Candles are very popular holiday décor, but make sure to never leave lighted candles unattended. Use appropriate holders that prevent candles from being knocked over by curious pets. Take care when using scented candles, especially the food-scented variety, that the smell doesn’t encourage your dog or cat to sample the goods.
- CHRISTMAS TREES: Pet owners should play it safe by securing their Christmas tree. Screw a hook into the wall or ceiling and run string or fishing line around the tree trunk and fasten it to the hook. This will anchor your tree and prevent it from being tipped or pulled over by your cat or dog. This technique will also keep water at the base of the tree from spilling. Stagnant tree water can harbor bacteria, so prevent your pet from drinking it. And don’t add fertilizer to the water.
- HOLIDAY EXCITEMENT: Holiday activities may be exciting for the two-legged members of your family, but constant visitors and the hustle and bustle of the season can be confusing and stressful for your pet. Dogs and especially kitties can become overwhelmed and over-stimulated just as children do. New Year’s celebrations can be a special problem, so keep your pet a safe distance from confetti, streamers, noisemakers and other dangers. Make sure your companion has her own safe, quiet space to retreat to in your home. Stock it with fresh water, a few treats and toys, and comfy bedding.
- LOSS OF DAILY ROUTINE: Around the holidays, when there are a million extra things to do, it’s easy to slip out of your daily routine. Meal times change, bedtime changes, daily exercise becomes sporadic or goes out the window altogether, and often, pets are left alone at home for many hours while the rest of the family shops and attends holiday gatherings. Dogs and cats need a consistent daily routine to keep stress levels down and maintain good health. As much as possible during the holidays, you should try to maintain your pet’s normal daily feeding, sleeping and exercise routine.
Happy holidays and stay safe!!