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Holiday Hazards

The holidays are a wonderful time of year, but hidden dangers can harm your pet and put a damper on the joyful spirit of the season. The good news is that these are preventable problems! So pet-proof your house...your pet will thank you for it.

Christmas TreatsMake sure all tempting ornaments and other decorative objects are out of reach. For cats, tinsel, ribbons, and other string-like materials are especially tempting. If ingested, these commonly cause life-threatening intestinal damage requiring emergency surgery. Ingestion of other ornaments and decorations can cause choking, mouth and throat damage, intestinal obstruction, and more.

Prevent access to electrical cords and do not hang lights that dangle like toys. Potentially fatal electrical shocks and burns are a risk for pets that like to chew or vigorously play with them.

Lighted candles should never be left unattended or in an area accessible to pets.

If you have a Christmas tree, be sure it is stable in the tree stand. Cats that climb and dogs with happily wagging tails have been known to knock trees over resulting in human and/or animal injury as well as damage to personal property.

Do not add chemicals or preservatives to water for your Christmas tree because many pets will drink the water in the tree stand.

Limit pine needle ingestion which may lead to stomach upset and trauma to the gastrointestinal system.

Be aware of other miscellaneous items which may be hazardous: poinsettia plants, angel hair (spun glass), snow sprays/artificial snow, holly berries and leaves, mistletoe, and liquid potpourri.

In addition to the above-mentioned toxic substances, some common foods can also be dangerous: chocolate, macadamia nuts, raisins and grapes, onion, garlic, rhubarb, and yeast dough. Please do not allow your pet access to them and seek veterinary assistance immediately if ingested.

Fatty foods (e.g. turkey carcasses, dark meat, pan drippings, etc.) are another serious concern because fat ingestion can lead to pancreatitis. This is a condition in which the pancreas, or digestive organ, becomes inflamed, irritated, and potentially infected. It then secretes too many digestive enzymes and essentially starts to digest itself and the surrounding stomach, intestines, and liver. This leads to signs of illness like depression, lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea. Serious complications can arise and pancreatitis can be fatal.

In addition, although it may be tempting to allow your pet to sample some of your best home-cooked creations, keep in mind that even foods generally regarded as "safe" can cause problems. Some pets are simply unable to tolerate "people food" and even small nibbles of very basic foods can lead to profound stomach upset and illness. For this reason, it is best not to offer your pet these foods.

Ingesting bones and other sharp or awkwardly shaped food items can be problematic and may lead to choking, damage to the throat/stomach/intestines, intestinal obstruction, and so on.

Consider confining your pet during holiday gatherings when he or she may have greater access to these things (dropped food, food left out unattended, feeding by well-meaning guests, etc.).

Also be sure that your pet does not have access to discarded food items. Not only could he or she get sick from eating the food, but often other trash items are ingested in the process and this can cause more problems. Furthermore, if food has become rotten, food poisoning is a threat.

Lastly, if your pet should ingest anything potentially dangerous or if you have other safety concerns, please contact a veterinarian immediately. Prompt medical treatment can mean the difference between life and death. We want this holiday season to be a happy and safe one for all!