Holiday Hazards For Pets

November 16, 2010

This cooler weather certainly has me in the holiday spirit. But, this can be a dangerous time for our pets, so I will repeat the warnings that I give every year at this time.

At Thanksgiving, the biggest hazard for pets is food. All that rich food is a lot more dangerous to your pet than it is to us. We might gain a few pounds, but a pet could get a bone lodged in his stomach or, even worse, pancreatitis could be the result of eating rich or fatty foods. Dogs aren’t stupid and they know to beg from guests. Guests usually give in and offer up a treat! Be sure that your guests know if your pet has any dietary restrictions and warn them not to feed too much of a good thing.

The Christmas tree is the number one source of non-food hazards. Water in the tree stand can become stagnant and the bacteria levels can be high enough to cause vomiting if pets drink it, so keep the water fresh or covered. Common tree preservatives contain fertilizers that upset pet’s stomachs, so either don’t use these products or keep the water out of reach.

Electric cords are everywhere these days, running across yards and rooms to electrify trees, window lights and other decorations. If a pet chews on these, they can get a serious shock and painful mouth burns. Rabbits absolutely love to chew on cords, but cats and dogs run a close second. Keep these hidden underground or under throw rugs to keep pets safe.

Pets can smell wrapped food presents from a mile away. Do not leave these presents unattended under the tree. Dogs will consume ribbon and wrapping paper as they try desperately to open sealed cheeses, jams and candies. One Christmas, while I was sound asleep, my own dog discovered a package of individually wrapped chocolate coins. She delicately unwrapped each coin and ate the chocolate. At first glance it was difficult to tell she had done anything more than spread out the coins. But then I noticed the single tooth hole in each opened foil wrapping. Fortunately, she did not eat the foil, which could have caused intestinal bleeding, but I did have to make her vomit in order to avoid chocolate toxicity.

Glass ornaments ribbons and holly berries all cause serious problems if they are eaten, and believe it or not, pets will occasionally eat a glass ornament. If you must use these items, keep them out of your pet’s reach. Tinsel is a problem every year. Cats tend to play with and eat this stringy stuff. When cats eat strings, ribbons or tinsel, the long material makes its way into the intestinal loops where it begins to saw through the gut wall. If you see tinsel hanging from your cat’s mouth or rear end, DO NOT pull it out if there is any resistance. Sometimes these strings literally go all the way from the mouth to the rectum and if you pull, you will exaggerate the sawing effect. Get your cat to the vet immediately. Surgery is usually required to remove strands of ribbon or tinsel.

Many pet owners elect to use baby gates to protect their trees from rambunctious pets.
This works well for dogs, but a cat can still get to and topple a Christmas tree if they begin to climb. Try to place your tree where dogs and cats are restricted unless there is human supervision.

Poinsettia leaves cause irritation to the mouth. If you catch a pet chewing on these, rinse their mouth with water and have a veterinarian take a look. Mistletoe berries, if eaten in quantity, can cause severe illness and even death. Keep the mistletoe high above the doors where it belongs.

Your kitchen and dining area are often targets for unsupervised pets. I hear countless stories of cats pushing turkeys or pies onto the floor where dogs and cats can share alike. Bones from these carcasses result in hospitalization of pets every year. Even seemingly harmless things in the kitchen can cause problems. For example, grapes and raisins have recently been linked to kidney disease. Alcoholic drinks can be very dangerous, especially to smaller animals. As I mentioned before, fatty and sugary foods, if eaten in quantity, can cause irreversible pancreatitis.

To avoid holiday digestive problems in pets, keep your garbage out of reach or sealed tightly and only give your pet healthy holiday treats made for pets.

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