It’s that time of year when we are decking the halls with festive decorations, but this most wonderful time of the year may also expose our cat and dog friends to many dangers. Visits to veterinary emergency rooms significantly increase during the holiday season. Being aware of potential hazards and taking a few precautions will help to protect your pets and perhaps save you and your cat or dog a traumatic trip to the ER.
Tinsel, angel hair, string, ribbon and ornament hooks are not only choking hazards, they can cause serious intestinal problems when ingested. Cats are at a particular risk with these items. The construction of the cat’s tongue makes it nearly impossible for them to spit anything out. Once they start swallowing a string or a string-like object, they can’t stop. Strangulation can occur. If swallowed, string or tinsel can get wrapped around the intestines. This can cause severe damage or rupturing. Try to keep these items out of a pet’s reach or avoid using them altogether.
Electrical or extension cords and strings of lights are of course a concern for dogs and cats who tend to chew on objects. Electrocution could be the result. Keep cords tied up and out of the way. Also, products like Bitter Apple or Bitter Lime can be applied to such items to discourage chewing.
The following are a few popular holiday plants and greenery that can be toxic or harmful to pets.
Poinsettia (causes mostly contact dermatitis and can be irritating to the mouth and stomach)
Christmas tree water
Christmas tree water may contain preservatives, pesticides or fertilizers. Aspirin is commonly used to keep the tree fresh. Any of the above listed items may have harmful or deadly consequences for pets. Keeping the tree water dish covered is safest.
Many of the foods we eat every day are toxic to our animal companions. The list is long, but some of the most toxic include:
Chocolate, Coffee and Caffeine
Grapes and Raisins
Onions, Garlic and Chives
Raw or Undercooked Meats, Eggs and Bones
Xylitol (a sugar substitute commonly used in sugar-free gum and candy)
Although none of the foods listed above should be given to cats or dogs, alcohol, chocolate, coffee, grapes, raisins and xylitol are very dangerous as they can cause serious damage to the liver, kidneys or central nervous system. In some cases, depending on the amount of the product consumed, death can be the result without treatment. Undercooked meat or eggs are a source of Salmonella and bones are a choking hazard. Uncooked yeast dough can rise in a pet’s stomach and can potentially cause the intestines to rupture. Although not listed above, fatty foods such as butter or gravy can cause pancreatitis.
While not specific to the holidays, antifreeze is perhaps the most lethal danger of all. It is the most common poisoning of dogs and cats in the United States. Antifreeze tastes sweet. This explains why any pet that has access to spilled antifreeze is likely to lap it up. The toxic ingredient in the antifreeze is its major component, ethylene glycol. It makes up 95% of the product. Only a few sips can be deadly for a pet. It causes kidney failure and can severely damage the central nervous system. One or two teaspoons will poison a cat and two or three tablespoons will poison a medium size dog. Clean up antifreeze spills immediately. Discard empty containers. If your vehicle has a coolant leak, deny your pet access to the garage or driveway until the leak is fixed and the area is thoroughly cleaned. If your pet has ingested antifreeze, contact your veterinarian or local veterinary emergency clinic immediately.
Taking some of the precautions listed above, in conjunction with not leaving pets unattended around holiday décor, food and plants will help make a safe and merry holiday season for you and your four-legged family members.