As Thanksgiving approaches I (Dr. Perry Jameson) like to hear Andy Williams remind me in song, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” The food, decorations and traditions we share make this a magical time for the entire family, including our pets.
Dogs love the aromas in the house as well as the occasional special treats that hit the floor, especially under the kids’ table. Cats find the twinkling lights and moving decorations irresistible.
However, if you were to visit an animal emergency room this time of year, all this magic is not so wonderful for some. Some of the magic can be life-threatening to your pets. We have put together a list of 10 holiday dangers for you to avoid and how to keep your pets safe.
As a child, once all the lights and ornaments were on the tree, we would then cover it with tinsel. It was almost hypnotizing how the metallic strands would catch the light and twinkle.
Anything that moves like this will catch a cat’s attention, too. If consumed, these strands can cause gastrointestinal obstruction or even worse: cut through the intestine. Despite my childhood memories, I have stopped using tinsel on my tree, and so should you.
Dogs and cats think these are toys. They will mouth and chew on them, making them a choking hazard or another cause of GI obstruction. Place ornaments that could cause a problem high enough up on the tree where they cannot be reached.
The lights require cords with power running through them. If bitten, this may cause serious oral burns and life-threatening pulmonary edema. The lights that bubble contain methylene chloride that can cause severe irritation to anything it comes in contact with.
Last Christmas, we went from enjoying the smell of a Frazier fur scented-candle to the horrible smell of burning hair. Our long-haired cat, Big Winky, had caught her hair on fire while walking across a table where the candle was burning.
Fortunately, she was not injured but it sure scared us. Besides causing a burn to your pet if knocked over, they can burn your home, too. Keep candles where cats or a dog’s tail will not knock them over.
Like tinsel, this can block the GI tract requiring surgery to correct. It is cute to use ribbon as a pet collar; however, if this catches on anything, it does pose a choking hazard. If you want to put ribbon around your pet’s neck, make it so it will easily tear off if caught.
All of the great food tastes so good because of the fat and sugar. This rich food may cause vomiting and diarrhea or even the life-threatening condition, pancreatitis, in your dog.
Chocolate, raisins, nuts and many ingredients in holiday dishes are toxic to pets. Keep food where your pets cannot reach them and only offer bland, low-fat safe treats from the table. White meat turkey and plain potatoes are the best option. I learned this the hard way when my dog, Flipper, pulled the Easter ham off the counter and ate half of it. Fortunately, he only suffered a tummy ache, but it could have been worse.
Some of the plants we use as decorations have toxic properties so all should be kept where pets cannot reach them.
Most such as poinsettias are not overly toxic. This popular plant, mistletoe and holly may cause some oral irritation and vomiting but is rarely life-threatening.
8. Liquid potpourris
These wonderfully aromatic liquids contain cationic detergents, which are highly irritating to feline mouths and GI tracts.
This is an obvious one, but I am still surprised by how many dogs get into the trash despite the best efforts to prevent it from happening. Flipper is constantly finding new ways to get into ours.
Bones can lodge in the esophagus causing obstructions or even worse, tears.
Dogs will eat the packaging food came in, often requiring surgical correction for an intestinal blockage. Spoiled food may cause severe vomiting and diarrhea.
10. Christmas tree
Trees should be in an adequate stand and attached to the wall if you have cats or are concerned your dog may knock it over.
When decorating and celebrating the holidays do not forget to keep your pet’s safety in mind.
This way, it can be a wonderful time for all.
Dr. Henri Bianucci and Dr. Perry Jameson are with Veterinary Specialty Care LLC. To send questions, go to Veterinaryspecialtycare.com and click the “ask the pet docs” icon.