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Woof! Meow! Pet safety tips for holiday un-decorating

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As people rang in the new year and the holiday season celebrations begin winding down, do you know where your noisemakers are? how ‘bout those corks from the bubbly? [we know where the New Year’s resolutions end up!]

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Does your Christmas tree have all its ornaments on it? with the hooks? And all the gifts laid under the tree with care – now open – are the tags, pins and staples still attached?

Many owners of companion animals probably took great care with howliday decorations and keeping them out of paws’ way, but as the season slows and fatigue enters, it’s easy to lose track of teeny, tiny little buttons and bows and tags and tacks. Bowsers and kittens will pounce! They may roll around and chew on these tasty tidbits, but it might be a quick minute before one of these shiny hooks snaps and latches onto a lip.

So here’s a quick list of reminders, courtesy of Dr. Justine Lee, from the Pet Health Network, for pet owners in the busyness of these last few days of holiday rush.

  1. Before leaving open packages beneath a holiday tree or on a coffee table in the family room for company to share, consider the ingredients. Remember, dogs can smell parts per trillion with that super-sensitive snout, so chocolate and chocolate-covered anything is not safe. Consider the contents: R rated? (R-rated = Rover safe!)

Chocolate is not R-rated. It’s poisonous.

And, it’s likely other ingredients in that delicacy might prove dangerous also. The Pet Poison Hotline lists caffeine, macadamia nuts, and raisins as leading to renal failure, pancreatitis, temporary paralysis and other maladies.

2.) Desserts! Even if sugar-free, desserts are a threat. Fake sugars (xylitol) can spike critters’ insulin, leading to a low blood-sugar reaction and possible liver failure. And many contain alcohol (tira misu, Panettone, fruitcake), which leads to alcohol poisoning, liver failure, in addition to problems from the canned fruit.

3.) Plants! Those beautiful poinsettia plants aren’t as big a threat as many think because they don’t carry much scent. But lilies … those buds are the real danger. For our feline friends, ingesting even 1-2 petals or even a bit of pollen, can lead to acute kidney failure.

4.) Lucky? Smooching under the mistletoe is sweet, just hang it high. And don’t let your critters kiss IT, let them kiss YOU. It is mildly toxic, especially if it is not fresh (e.g., cut right out of the tree). If you purchase it, aim to select American mistletoe, rather than European mistletoe: it’s less toxic to our companion animals, according to veterinarians at the Pet Poison Control.

5.) Naughty? Nice! Now for decorations. People who choose to have companion animals simply cannot avoid certain, um, scents in the home. So we have to compensate. Air fresheners, scented candles, simmering potpourris are great options but quite dangerous to our critters: ingesting a mouthful of leaves, cones and twigs, especially for cats, not only can cause a chemical burn in a sensitive mouth, but all the way down the esophagus. Scented candles often resemble food items and therefore tempt canines. Spice went crazy for a mango-scented candle immediately; up, up and away it went! Be careful with your choices and think who might act naughty!

As always, keep your veterinarian of record’s phone number posted on your refrigerator as well as an emergency veterinary service. If you think your pet(s) have ingested something poisonous and it is after hours, consider calling Pet Poison Hotline. The service is available 24/7 at (800) 213-6680.

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