We’ve all been busy these last couple of weeks decking the halls and trimming the tree in preparation for holiday festivities. It is a magical time of year when many of us enjoy a warm, festive atmosphere and feasting a-plenty. Your dog and cat may want to join in on the fun right alongside their human counterparts. After all, the holidays bring new toys to play with and hide-and-seek games in empty gift boxes. With all the merriment around us, did you know that the holidays can also present certain hazards for our furry friends? From turkey trimmings to tree trimmings, we’ve got a handful of holiday hazards for all pet lovers to be aware of during this season. Being aware of these can potentially save your pet’s life or prevent them from becoming ill.
Hazard #1: Decorations
It wouldn’t be the holidays without the tree, lights and everything that goes with it. But keep in mind that your pet may be drawn to them for different reasons. Sparkly lights that encircle the tree are pretty but can draw curious mouths toward dangerous electrical cords. Young puppies and kittens are most likely to suffer electric shock and electric burns during the holiday season, as they love to put anything novel in their mouths. Shimmering tinsel may turn your tree into a dazzling spectacle, but it is a very common cause of gastrointestinal (GI) blockage in cats. Cats are attracted to it and many decide that it is a tasty treat as well. String is another cause of GI blockage, as cats love to play with it and chew on it as it comes off presents Christmas morning. Trees and other heavy decorations can be knocked over by pets, potentially falling on them and causing injury.
Take these risks into consideration when you are pulling out your decorations and take measures necessary to minimize problems. Baby gates can be used to “fence off” the tree from marauding large-breed puppies, keeping messes at a minimum. Cover electrical cords with a safety strip to prevent electric shock. Minimize use of string and tinsel in your decorations when cats are around.
Hazard #2: Food
Food is at the center of the holiday season, whether it is at the company holiday party or Christmas dinner. We all enjoy the tasty tidbits of the season, but many of these can cause problems and even toxicity for our furry family members. Below are foods to AVOID giving your pets year-round, not just during the holidays:
- Garlic and onions (any member of the Allium family)
- Raisins and Grapes
- Macadamia nuts
- Bones, especially poultry or pork
- Fatty trimmings from meats
- Yeast Dough
- Coffee and Caffeine
- Artificial Sweeteners (especially Xylitol)
For more information about these and additional foods that are “off-limits” for pets – check out the ASPCA Animal Poison Control’s article, People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pet.
Holiday Hazard #3: Plants
Most people automatically think of the Christmas tree when they think of plants, but others are commonly used to make the home more festive. Mistletoe, holly, poinsettias and lilies are common and toxic if your pet ingests them. Poinsettias are most commonly found in homes during the holidays and can cause nausea and vomiting if eaten. Mistletoe and holly are considered to be moderately to severely toxic. Many varieties of lily are toxic to dogs and cats – including amaryllis, calla lily, peace lily, autumn crocus, etc. Ingestion of lilies can cause depression, anorexia and more specifically, kidney failure in cats.
If you are concerned about your dog or cat this holiday season, please contact your veterinarian or local 24-hour emergency veterinary center. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center is also a great resource, but a fee may apply for a phone consultation.
A little planning and attention to detail can create an enjoyable and safe environment for the whole family. Take the time to check out potential hazards in your home this holiday season.