It’s a festive time of year and chances are you’ve been busy shopping and decorating and baking. As enjoyable as the holidays can be for people, it’s also a time when you need to be extra vigilant about added dangers to your pets.
Check out this list of common dangers, poisons and potential disasters.
THE TREE: If you display a Christmas tree in your home, make sure that the tree is properly supported. An extra wide and heavy tree stand will help anchor a live tree. If you’re shopping for an artificial tree, look for one that isn’t top heavy. If you are still concerned that an active cat will climb the tree or a rambunctious dog knock it over, anchor it to the wall or ceiling with fishing line and hooks.
If you have a live tree, you will need to water it to keep it from drying out too quickly. Pets that drink from the tree water can suffer from intestinal distress, particularly if you use a water additive designed to keep the tree fresh for longer. Skip the water additive and cover the top of the stand with a tree skirt to keep cats and dogs out.
Cats are especially drawn to blinking lights, so position electric cords away from the bottom of the tree. Some cats and dogs like to chew on the branches and needles, which can cause nausea and vomiting and sore mouths from the pine oils. If your pet is a chewer, consider putting the tree in a room where pet access can be limited. Or you can try spraying the tree with Bitter Apple, a bad tasting spray that is available at pet stores.
THE DECORATIONS: Tinsel, ornament hangers, wrapping paper and ribbons are all attractive to curious pets, but if swallowed can cause intestinal blockage or even perforation of the intestine, which is an emergency situation requiring surgery. Consider switching to twist ties or heavy duty plastic hangers, which are harder to swallow and less likely to cause a puncture. Tinsel should be banned from the house altogether. It’s basically impossible to keep it from falling off the tree. Gifts that will be displayed should not be decorated with ribbon.
Certain seasonal plants, like mistletoe and poinsettia, have a reputation for being toxic. The truth is they aren’t actually deadly. The sap from the leaves can cause mild intestinal upset or irritation of the mouth, but will not cause acute death. However, if your pets have a tendency to chew on plants, it is a good idea to put them out of reach anyway.
THE TREATS: Many of the holiday foods that we enjoy aren’t good for our pets or can even be dangerous. At the top of the list is chocolate. Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine, which is highly toxic to dogs and cats. Small amounts can cause vomiting and diarrhea, while larger doses can result in seizures and heart arrhythmias. The darker the chocolate, the more theobromine it contains.
If you like fruitcake, keep it away from your dog. It can contain grapes, raisins or currants, which can cause kidney failure in dogs.
Sugarless gums and candy are sweetened with an ingredient called xylitol, which is highly poisonous to dogs.
Alcohol has the same affect on dogs as it does on people and is rapidly absorbed. Desserts containing alcohol should also be kept away from pets.
Unbaked bread or other yeast products. Yeast requires warmth to rise and if your dog eats unbaked dough, the stomach is the perfect place for that process to take place. Except there is no stopping it, usually requiring surgery to remove the mass.
Fatty meat scraps, bones or gravy can all cause serious GI issues. Eating fat or fatty gravy can cause pancreatitis, a painful inflammation of the pancreas, and bones can cause blockage or intestinal perforation.
THE ANTIFREEZE : Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol and is one of the most common poisons to affect dogs and cats. It typically is ingested when it drips from a car and is found by an animal. It is sweet, so it is attractive to animals. A tiny amount can cause kidney failure and death. If you suspect your pet has ingested antifreeze, he needs an exam and treatment immediately. Prevent antifreeze poisoning by periodically checking your car for leaks and fixing them. Clean up spilled or leaked antifreeze immediately, and don’t let your pets wander outside alone.
GRANDMA’S PURSE: If you have visitors for the holidays, they may not be used to keeping certain items, particularly medications, away from pets. Keep pets away from house guest’s luggage and ask guests to keep their medications out of reach.