Every year we celebrate the holidays and fill our homes with seasonal cheer for ourselves and our families. Lights, decorations, good food…what may seem beautiful and harmless to us may pose hidden dangers to our pets. Don’t let an emergency, or worse, a tragedy spoil the festivities! Take a few precautions now, and you won’t have to worry about your pets later.
Let’s start with foods, – The following can be toxic, and should be considered dangerous to pets: chocolate, raisins, grapes, macadamia nuts, garlic, onion, alcohol, caffeinated beverages, bread dough, and sugar-free candy and gum containing the artificial sweetener xylitol.
Even supposedly safe food can cause harm. Despite tradition, bones should never be given to pets. Beef, ham, and other “regular” foods that are not considered toxic can cause illness in pets. If your pet is a moocher, keep a plate of your pet’s regular treats on the table to offer when your pet asks. He/she probably won’t know the difference!
When it comes to new treats and toys, even a pet-safe treat can cause stomach upset if it is new to your pet. Offer only one of these at a time (ideally, separated by a few days, just as you would when introducing new foods to a baby). If your pet becomes ill after eating a holiday treat, it will be easier to trace the source and discontinue it. Also, check new toys for sharp edges, pieces that can be chewed off, or other potential hazards.
I can’t stress enough about the dangers of the next item. Hazardous plants include mistletoe, some evergreens (including some types of pine), and holly bushes and berries. Try to keep these plants away from pets, or at least supervise pets when dangerous plants are nearby.
Another top danger to pets are tinsel, tree ornaments, ribbons, string, and garlands especially if these items are eaten by pets. Keep these items away from pets when pets are unattended. Don’t forget to cover any electrical cords or keep them out of reach. Have you ever seen a pet poop with a long hair caught in the middle of a turd. Imagine how much worse it would be if that hair were tinsel, not to mention the damage it could do on the way through your pet.
Monitor pets near fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, candles, and portable heaters. Also, don’t forget to check smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they are functioning properly. Space heaters, furnaces, and idling cars (in a garage) can increase the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning in pets and humans.
Watch your pets when they are around your holiday tree. Pets may eat the needles (even from artificial trees) or drink water from the base of the tree, which can be toxic (especially if there are preservatives in it). Keep electrical cords and decorative lights out of reach, too. Cats especially, will think of climbing the tree and possibly knock the tree when they reach the top. This can be very dangerous for the whole house, not to mention the loss of your grandmothers heirloom Christmas ornaments.
Please remember, if your pet has eaten or drunk something toxic, warning signs will include gastrointestinal problems, such as vomiting and diarrhea. Other signs may include tiredness and lack of appetite, especially in cats that have eaten lilies. If your pet shows any of these signs, or if you think he or she has eaten something dangerous but is not showing any signs yet, please call you vet right away. Treating your pet as soon as possible is essential and could save his or her life!
Keep your entire family happy and healthy this Christmas season!