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How to Keep Pets Safe This Holiday Season

With the holidays around the corner everyone is busy preparing for the fun and excitement but it is important to keep our furry friends safe as well so that they can enjoy the season too. The interesting new foods and decorations can be very tempting to our pets and can get them into some trouble. Here are some examples of things pet owners should be aware of during this holiday season:

Tinsel, Gift Ribbon and Ornaments

Even though tinsel and ribbon are not toxic it is very attractive to pets, especially cats. It can be very fun to play with but once it is consumed it can quickly become fatal as it twists and turns in your pet’s intestines and immediate veterinary care is needed.

Ornaments are often made of plastic or glass and when your pet’s curiosity gets the best of them they can break into small pieces. If ingested they can be a choking hazard or cut the inside of your pets mouth, throat or intestines.

Snow Globes

Snow globes can contain ethylene glycol (antifreeze) and if broken can cause a lot of harm. The sweet taste of antifreeze is tempting for pets to lick up but if they do you will need to go to the veterinarian immediately. Toxic symptoms include difficulty walking, vomiting, panting, lethargy, coma, and acute kidney failure leading to death.  The glass or plastic pieces can also cause lacerations to the mouth, throat or digestive tract.

Holiday Lighting and Candles

Hanging up lights makes the holiday season come alive but for pets that like to chew it can be a serious health hazard. For these pets chewing on electrical cords can lead to tongue lacerations, electrical burns and possibly even death. Make sure to check lighting for signs of fraying, chewing and always use a grounded three-pronged cord as a safety precaution. Pocket pets need to be watched extra carefully as they tend to explore with their mouths!

If you have candles on display make sure they are in an area where your pets cannot reach them and they are stable enough not to knock over. The hot wax of the candle can burn the pads of their paws and also create a fire hazard!

Holiday Plants

Christmas Tree Pine Needles – If ingested these can cause oral irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, trembling and posterior weakness. Pine needles can also get imbedded in your pet’s paws if playing around the tree. Tree water can cause an upset stomach due to the bacteria in the stagnant water. It can also be toxic to your pet if any chemicals are added to keep it fresh for longer, so make sure the label says it is safe for pets!

Mistletoe – If ingested can cause significant vomiting and diarrhea, difficulty breathing, collapse, erratic behaviour, hallucinations and possibly death.

Holly – If ingested can cause intense vomiting, diarrhea and depression.

Poinsettias – If ingested can cause irritation to the mouth and stomach and sometimes vomiting.

Lilies & Daffodils – If ingested can cause vomiting, diarrhea, cardiac arrhythmias, convulsions, kidney failure and death. Lilies are toxic to cats while daffodils are toxic to both cats and dogs, especially the bulbs.

Amaryllis – If ingested can cause vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, increased drooling, respiratory depression, anorexia and tremors.

  • Cats like to explore their surroundings by brushing up against things in their home. This could cause pollen to fall off of the plant onto their fur to be ingested later when they groom themselves.

Holiday Food

Fat Trimmings – Fat trimmed from meat (both cooked and uncooked) as well as gravy fed in excess can cause an upset stomach, pancreatitis and can be potentially fatal.

Bones – Even though it seems natural to give your dog a bone, they can often choke on it. Bones can also splinter and cause an obstruction or laceration in the digestive tract. Be careful of animals digging through the garbage bin to find them! The string from the meat bones can also cause an obstruction if eaten.

Onions & Garlic – Onions contain a substance that destroys red blood cells and causes anemia. Garlic contains a similar substance but in a lower amount.

Nuts – Almonds, walnuts (non-moldy) and pistachios can cause stomach upset or an obstruction in your dog’s throat or stomach. Macadamia nuts and moldy walnuts can be toxic causing seizures or neurological signs, lethargy, vomiting and loss of muscle control.

Chocolate – Chocolate contains a substance called theobromine and its levels can vary depending on what type it is. The darker the chocolate the more dangerous and toxic it is! If ingested it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, seizures and in severe cases, death.

Fruitcake, Grapes & Raisins – All parts of the grape are toxic to dogs even in small quantities and should be taken seriously. Fruitcake often contains raisins and if ingested it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, increased thirst and acute renal failure.

Candies – The artificial sweetener xylitol is being used in a lot of candies and sweets so be careful what is left within your pets reach! Xylitol stimulates the release of insulin which creates a drop in blood sugar resulting in severe hypoglycemia and liver failure. Symptoms include vomiting, weakness, lethargy, tremors, difficulty walking, seizures and coma.

Alcohol – Alcoholic drinks can be very sweet tasting to our pets and if left unattended and ingested they could become weak, ill and even go into a coma which could result in death from respiratory failure.

Party Guests

Parties and having friends over can create lasting memories but it can also be very stressful for our pets too. The unfamiliar faces and loud noises can be overwhelming for them. You can exercise your dog beforehand and give them a special chew toy to keep them distracted. If they seem stressed, put them in a quiet room away from all of the noise and people. Cats will probably choose to hide all on their own.

If any toxicity is suspected don’t hesitate to contact your veterinarian. The quicker any toxicity is treated, the better the outcome, so please don’t wait until your pet becomes very ill. The holidays can be a fun and festive time for all and if the proper steps are taken everyone can enjoy them together!