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Tis the season for practicing pet safety

Holiday decorations and foods can be hazardous and poisonous to pets. See how you can keep your fur-babies safe while enjoying Christmas.
Photo by Phil Cole/Getty Images

Holiday decorations are beautiful and we all love to see the twinkling lights, holly wreaths, and Christmas trees, but for Fido and Fifi, this can be a dangerous time of year.

Thanks to the excellent folks at Kitty Hawk Animal Hospital (who take care of all my four-legged children), we now have a few guidelines on keeping our furry family members safe from holiday decorating zeal.

Keep lights and candles out of reach. If your dog or cat can reach them, they will most likely try and eat them. Pets love to chew, and they check things out by "tasting" them. Dogs, especially, seem to like the taste of scented candles. A dear friend's Collie, Max, managed to eat all her scented candles. Not only did this spell "curtains" for the candles, but it caused Max's pet-mom to visit the vet worried over the harmful effects of wax consumption. It also goes without saying that if a string of lights happens to be turned on while your pet is tasting or chewing them, he could be electrocuted.

Decorations are bad for digestion. Tinsel left on low-hanging branches of trees can shred an animal's intestines if eaten. Don't let your pet eat this stuff. Keep tinsel up high or don't use it at all if you have a dog or cat. (It's equally dangerous for toddlers who put everything in their mouths, too). Other ornaments (and their hooks) can cause a choking hazard. Remember to think of your pets as unsupervised toddlers when it comes to holiday decorations.

Holiday foods will make your pet sick. Sugary snacks like cookies and candy consumed by your pet can cause high heart rate, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, seizures, and even death. Common foods found in holiday fare like onions, garlic, grapes, raisins, avocados, nuts, (especially macademia and walnuts) are poisonous to dogs and cats. Keep them away from stuffing, dips, fresh fruit and veggie trays, and of course, the desserts. If your pet consumes any of these, seek out your veterinarian or 24-hour emergency pet hospital immediately.

No "special" punch for Fido and Fifi. Alcohol is a no-no for pets. Like the foods listed above, it can cause tremors, seizures, and even death. Animals do not have the ability to process alcohol like humans so don't try and share a drink your best friend. Keep it to a toast and nothing more.

(Don't) give a dog a bone. Fatty foods can increase the risk of pancreatitis in pets, and bone shards can cause choking as well as cut up the intestinal tract. This goes for cats, too! Throw bones away in a container where your pet can't get to them.

Under the mistletoe by the lovely poinsettias. They look pretty, but these two common holiday plants are highly poisonous to pets. Besides diarrhea and vomiting, they can cause heart arrhythmia in both dogs and cats. Keep these plants up and out of reach.

Sure, it seems like one must child-proof the house when you have pets, but they are, after all, your "children". They rely on you to keep them safe and healthy.

Follow these tips and you'll be able to enjoy the holiday season with the peace of mind that comes with knowing your furry babies are happy and healthy.

If you experience a poisoning emergency, call the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline at 1-888-426-4435.

All articles by Michele Gwynn are under copyright and cannot be re-posted whole without written consent by the author. Partial re-posting with a link back to the original article is permitted. For consent, questions, or comments, email

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