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The bright lights, colorful ornaments, seasonal plants and trees, wrapped presents, and abundant foods that represent the holiday season are all exciting temptations and curiosities for four-footed family members. Pets will investigate new items by sniffing, tossing, chasing, and finally by having a taste. Unfortunately, they may also be hazardous to your pets if proper precautions are not observed. The following tips will help you and your pets enjoy the holiday festivities safely.
Poinsetti - This plant is considered to be low in toxicity. However, if large amounts of the leaves are chewed, irritation of the mouth, throat, and gastrointestinal tract may occur, leading to vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. If your animals tend to eat plants, keep poinsettias well out of reach.
Amaryllis and Christmas cactus - These plants can cause severe depression, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea.
Holly and Mistletoe - These plants are highly toxic, especially the berries, and are not recommended to be kept in an area where animals may get to them. Plastic replacements are available and are recommended instead.
Christmas Trees - Most Christmas greens are relatively low in toxicity. However, ingestion of fallen and dried needles can result in trauma to the mouth and gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, keep needles picked up as they fall. Avoid using Japanese yew, a common outdoor evergreen with red berries, for holiday greenery as it is very toxic to animals if ingested. Access by pets to Christmas tree water should be limited as there may be heavy growth of bacteria in the water that could cause vomiting and diarrhea. Christmas tree water preservatives are generally low in toxicity, depending on their specific formulation. If your cats are tempted to climb the Christmas tree, deter them by using remote punishment, such as a water pistol. Make sure the tree is securely anchored so it can't be tipped over. A picket fence or a brass exercise pen can be placed around the Christmas tree to keep your little ones from chewing packages, lights, and ornaments. And either can be decorated with bows or wreaths to add a holiday touch.
Christmas tree lights - The electrical cords may pose an electrocution hazard to your pet if they are chewed. Discourage chewing by applying an oral deterrent, such as tabasco or bitter apple, or cover them with aluminum foil or plastic casing. Always unplug lights when not in use. Do not use holiday lights on the lower tree branches. They may get very hot and burn pets that roam freely in the house.
Christmas ornaments - Breakable ornaments warrant special care as their resulting sharp edges may traumatize the mouth, gastrointestinal tract, eyes, and paws of your pet. Some antique ornaments may also contain lead, which is a toxic hazard if ingested. If you elect to decorate with glass ornaments, hang them on the tree high out of reach of your pets; use wooden, plastic, or cloth ornaments on the lower branches. Hanging ornaments with ribbons rather than metal hooks reduces the threat of puncturing the intestines if a hook is ingested. Also watch for ornaments made from homemade play-dough; high salt content can poison dogs and even cause death. It would be wise to refrain from using edible ornaments. Your pet may knock the tree over in an attempt to eat them.
Angel hair, ribbons and tinsel - Tinsel, icicles, ribbons or yarn can be an appealing target for play, but can cause severe intestinal obstruction if ingested, often requiring surgery to correct. This is a very common situation for kittens. Angel hair is spun glass and is irritating to both the inside and outside of your pet.
Candles - Candles present a burn hazard to your pet and a fire hazard to your home if your pet accidentally tips a candle over. Make sure that all candles are kept out of reach of your pet and that they are all extinguished before leaving the house or turning in for the night.<br>
Yeast bread dough - Yeast can cause alcohol intoxication and risk of bloat if dough rises in digestive tract.
Macadamia nuts - These nuts can cause increased body temperature, muscle stiffness, increased heart rate and tremors.
Chocolate - Candy dishes left on the coffee table often prove to be too great a temptation to dogs, if left unobserved. Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, which in large quantities can cause vomiting, hyperactivity, seizures, and heartbeat irregularities. Chocolate is also a fatty food, which may cause problems with pancreatitis in dogs. Place goodies out of the reach of puppy's paws and kitty's claws.
Bones - Turkey or chicken bones left accessible in the kitchen trash or fed to animals as a treat may cause problems by splintering when chewed and causing major intestinal trauma and blockage.
Leftovers - Fatty leftovers rarely make good pet food and may predispose animals to developing pancreatitis. Pancreatic inflammation often presents with severe vomiting, tender abdomen, and severe depression.
Coffee - Coffee grounds, beans, chocolate covered espresso beans can be dangerous to pets.
Onions - Never feed an onion to your pet as it can destroy your pets red blood cells causing anemia.
Alcohol - Pets should NEVER be allowed to consume alcoholic beverages.
Adhesives and glues - Many glues are relatively low in toxicity towards animals, depending on the type, but may cause a great deal of excitement if your pet gets "stuck" to itself. Trying to restrain your pet from traumatizing itself and soaking the affected area with warm water or clipping the affected fur usually helps to alleviate the problem.
Batteries - Many standard and button batteries contain corrosives and toxic metals within them, which may cause ulceration or burns of the mouth, tongue, esophagus, and stomach. Keep new and used batteries well out of the reach of pets.
Guests - Along with holiday celebrations come visitors. Keep an eye out for open doors and make sure your pets have identification in case your pet slips out. Indoor pets inadvertently left outside could be injured by frostbite, cars, or other animals. Provide a quiet, special retreat area for your pets when the festivities become overwhelming. Also keep in mind that pets may not know about hot stoves or to stay out from underfoot. Keep pets away while you are cooking for your guests so they don't get burned or get hot foods spilled on them.
Medications - Overnight guests may be bringing in unfamiliar toiletries or medication containers. Try to keep purses, bathroom counters, and bedroom nightstands off limits and out of reach of curious pets or store medications safely within drawers and cabinets.
Traveling - If you will be traveling with your pet over the holidays, please make sure your pet wears its collar with its license, rabies and identification tags at all times, and that you keep a copy of those numbers and a picture of your pet in your wallet.
Other Winter Hazards
Antifreeze - Antifreeze has a pleasant taste to pets. Unfortunately, very small amounts can be lethal. As little as one teaspoon of antifreeze can be deadly to a cat; less than four teaspoons can be dangerous to! a 10-pound dog. Thoroughly clean up any spills, store antifreeze in tightly closed containers and store in secured cabinets. If you think your pet has consumed antifreeze, contact your veterinarian right away.
Ice melting products - Products used for melting ice can be irritating to skin and mouths of pets. Chemicals and salt on sidewalks and roads can severely burn foot pads and should be washed off right away. Depending on the actual ingredient of the ice melt and the quantity, signs of ingestion would include excessive drooling, depression, vomiting or even electrolyte imbalances.
Gifts for Your Pets
When choosing a gift for your pet, consider the pet as an individual. Cats enjoy lightweight toys they can bat around, catnip toys, scratching posts, and kitty perches. Dogs like balls, chew toys, and things they can carry around. However, beware of toys with parts, such as bells, buttons, string, yarn, or squeaky parts, that can be detached and swallowed. Watch how your pet handles a new toy until you are sure it is safe. Some dogs treat! a stuffed toy like a friend and carry it around and sleep with it. Others will tear them up and eat the stuffing and get into trouble. Also, if there is more than one pet in the household, consider all the pets before buying for any one of them. A one-inch diameter toy for a cat is fine, but a puppy may swallow it and possibly require surgery to remove it.
Although an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, especially with holiday hazards, accidents do happen in spite of your best efforts to prevent it. If you suspect that your pet has ingested something poisonous, please contact your local veterinarian or animal emergency center immediately for treatment advice. Keep their phones numbers in a convenient location, as well as the ASPCA National Animal Poison Control Center, 1-888-4 ANI-HELP. Don't give your pet any medications before consulting your veterinarian. Many over-the-counter drugs, such as Tylenol, are toxic for animals even though they are safe for us.
We hope you and your family have very happy holidays.