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Holiday Safety Tips for Pets

By - Posted on December 19, 2016

Pets are part of the family and are included in many holiday celebrations.  It is important to remember though, that during this time of year, pets can be exposed to risks that can turn a joyous occasion into a trip to the vet.  Here are some pet safety tips that can help keep your furry friend healthy and happy throughout the holidays and beyond.

Stay away from string

Whether it’s tinsel on the tree, ribbons on a gift, or New Year’s confetti, be cautious about leaving any kind of string around. Cats are extremely attracted to string, but if it is ingested, it can get lodged in their digestive tract.

Keep an eye on candles

Make sure any lighted candles are secure in a holder and keep an eye on them. Pets can go near candles and burn themselves, or knock them over and start a fire. Put out the candles before leaving the room.

Take caution with cords and lights

Dogs, cats and rabbits often chew on electrical cords and strings of lights. This can result in electrocution or mouth burns. It can also be a fire hazard.  Keep pets away from cords, or consider using products like CritterCord and Grannick’s Bitter Apple spray that will deter chewing on cords. You can also try spraying cords with a blend of lemon juice, cayenne pepper and water.

Forbid certain foods

While it can be tempting to spoil your pet with treats during the holidays, it’s best to stick with foods that you are absolutely certain are healthy and pet-friendly.  Some foods are very dangerous and can even be life-threatening to pets.  Don’t feed your dog or cat any of the following foods – and make sure they don’t have access to these foods through fallen scraps on the floor, garbage cans, unattended plates, and well-meaning guests.

  • Chocolate – Chocolate contains substances called methylxanthines which are toxic to dogs and cats and can cause a range of symptoms from vomiting and diarrhea to abnormal heart rhythm, seizures and even death. Coffee and foods that have caffeine also contain methylxanthines, so you’ll want your pet to avoid those as well.
  • Turkey and turkey skin – Even a small amount of turkey can cause pancreatitis in dogs, a life-threatening condition. Plus turkey (and chicken) contains brittle, sharp and hollow bones that could splinter easily when chewed, resulting in choking or a blocked intestinal tract.
  • Xylitol – While not a food itself, xylitol is a sweetening ingredient used in gum, candy, baked goods, and toothpaste. Xylitol is very toxic to pets, affecting the release of insulin from the pancreas, and can cause hypoglycemia, seizures, liver failure and death.
  • Onions – All types of raw or cooked onions are harmful to both dogs and cats. The disulfides and sulfoxides in onions can damage red blood cells and cause anemia.
  • Alcohol – Never let your pet drink alcohol. Alcoholic beverages can cause a host of problems including vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, coma and death. If someone spills a drink, clean it up right away before your pet has a chance to consume it.
  • Grapes and raisins – Even a small amount of grapes or raisins can be very hazardous to dogs and cats. Though fine for humans, they can can cause vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and kidney failure in pets.

Be careful of poisonous plants

Some ornamental plants that are commonly used for holiday decorating are toxic and can be harmful to pets if they ingest them.  If you can’t keep these plants out of your home, place them in an area that your pets cannot reach. Here are some plants to watch for:

Poinsettias – Mildly toxic and can cause nausea and vomiting.

Christmas trees – Mildly toxic. Fir tree oils can cause mouth and stomach irritation. Hard-to-digest tree needles can cause vomiting, gastrointestinal puncture or obstruction and other GI problems.

Mistletoe and holly – Moderate to severely toxic. Symptoms of ingestion include excessive drooling, severe intestinal upset and abdominal pain, breathing problems and a drop in blood pressure.

Lilies – Lilies are extremely dangerous, especially for cats. If ingested they can cause sudden kidney failure.

Emergency assistance

If your pet ingests any of the foods or plants above and starts to show signs of poisoning, call your veterinarian or a pet poison helpline immediately.  The two helplines below offer professional emergency assistance over the phone and their websites provide additional resources for pet owners.

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) (888) 426-4435 – Available 24/7. This hotline is run by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®), the first humane society to be established in North America. A $65 consultation may be applied to your credit card.

Pet Poison Helpline(855) 764-7661 – Available 24/7. The helpline is staffed by veterinarians certified in internal medicine, emergency and critical care, and toxicology. There is a $49 per incident fee.

By taking a few precautions, you can help protect your pet from holiday hazards. Make holiday memories at home instead of at a vet’s office!

Posted in Military Family and Lifestyle