As the holidays approach, food, guests and dangers for our pets are right around the corner. Keep these tips in mind as you prepare for your holiday festivities.
Keep chocolate gift boxes in places where your pet can’t reach, and be extra careful with dark chocolate or baker’s chocolate. Dark chocolate is much worse than milk chocolate, as it takes less dark chocolate to make our pooches sick. It actually takes the equivalent of one large milk chocolate candy bar to cause a problem in a 10 lb. dog. So, one chocolate chip that falls on the ground and gets snatched up by your pooch isn’t likely to cause a problem. Dogs usually exhibit stomach upset if they get into chocolate, and if they get high enough doses they can have hyperactivity, a fast heart rate and even tremors or seizures in the worst case scenario. And believe me there are chocolate loving dogs out there. I recently saw a poodle that broke into the food pantry and ate an entire bag of M&M’s while her mom was out for dinner! Be careful!
Also, watch out for holiday plants. While Mistletoe ingestion only causes minor stomach upset, Poinsettia ingestion can cause stomach upset as well as irritation and blistering of the mouth in our dogs and cats. However, be most careful with lilies! Lilies can cause lethal kidney failure in cats. If you have cats, it’s just not worth having lilies in your home.
Additionally, with its glittering lights and natural climbing area, the Christmas tree may offer a new place for your cat to play. Cats can tip over trees so make sure to secure the trees. Tinsel is also dangerous if you have cats. If your cat ingests tinsel it can get stuck in their intestines causing an obstruction. Speaking of obstructions, the string wrapping around the meat can also be a problem if your dog raids the trash and eats the string. Pets can also get into bones in the trash, which can cause stomach upset and a possible obstruction as well. Obstructions lead to surgery, and we don’t want to spend the holidays watching our poor pets undergo surgery for preventable reasons.
Some of our pets may also like to drink Christmas tree water. If they like toilet water (Yuck!), then they will also likely enjoy Christmas tree water! Make sure that you use a pet friendly tree preservative if you add a tree preservative to the tree water and think your pet will find the Christmas tree water irresistible. Better yet, use a tree stand designed to prevent pets from accessing the water or just cover the stand with a towel. Tree water can also harbor bacteria, which can lead to other problems as well.
Many of us eat a lot during the holidays and feel the need to allow our pets to indulge too. It’s fine to give our furry friends some lean turkey or ham as a treat, but don’t give them the fatty trimmings or you’ll end up cleaning up cleaning up after a sick pet or visiting your veterinarian with a pet that has a potentially fatal pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas). And, sometimes we forget what can fall on the floor when we are cooking for a holiday crowd. If your pet is a food thief, like my Quincy, then it is suggested to keep him or her in a separate room when cooking or serving food at a dinner party.
Speaking of visitors, holiday visitors that are driving long distances may have cars that boil over with antifreeze. Antifreeze is a neon colored liquid. If you see it, put on gloves and clean it up. It is very sweet and only takes a lick or two to cause kidney failure. After ingestion your pets may have vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy but this can progress to lethal kidney failure. Rush to the vet if you see them even taste antifreeze!
Finally, overnight visitors may also bring medications and prescriptions. Make sure they are not left on a bed stand or counter where our pets may get a hold of them, but are put away in a drawer or cabinet. The number one phone call to Animal Poison Control during the holiday season is for the ingestion of human prescriptions!
Although I may sound like a grinch (and am beginning to feel like one), all of the mentioned hazards are real and should be kept at the forefront of our minds as we enjoy the holiday season with our furry friends! Happy Holidays!
Jessica Melman, VMD