The most wonderful time of the year is upon us, and with all the celebrations and excitement of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, these holidays can also present a host of hazards to your pet’s safety. Here are the top holiday hazards to avoid so your pet stays safe.
- Chocolate and other candy — Trick-or-treat sweets, particularly chocolate, can be dangerous for pets. The theobromine and caffeine in chocolate can cause vomiting, diarrhea, tachycardia, and even life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias. Raisins, macadamia nuts, and xylitol—a sugar substitute found in many types of sugar-free candy and gum—are also toxic to pets.
- Potential for escape — The scary noises, creepy costumes, and ringing doorbell can freak out even the most laid-back pet. With the door repeatedly opening to welcome trick or treaters, a spooked pet can easily slip out. To avoid losing your pet, she should be confined to a separate room with toys and treats during the festivities. Also, ensure she’s wearing a collar with identification tags and is microchipped with up-to-date contact information on the microchip registry.
- Jack-o’-lanterns — Carved pumpkins can easily be knocked over by playful pets or wagging tails, and a toppled lit candle can cause a dangerous fire. We aren’t suggesting you forego this Halloween tradition, but, after carving your pumpkin, a flameless candle is a safer option around animals.
- Glow sticks — These glowing tubes can seem like tempting chew toys to your pet, but, if punctured by a tooth, the liquid inside can squirt into her mouth. Although it’s not toxic, the liquid tastes horrible and will probably cause excessive salivation and foaming at the mouth.
- Pancreatitis — Fatty foods, such as fat, gristle, and skin, can trigger a bout of pancreatitis for your pet. This inflammatory condition causes severe vomiting and abdominal pain and usually requires hospitalization with IV fluids and medications. Avoid feeding your pet from the table, but, if you can’t help yourself, limit it to a nibble or two of lean turkey meat.
- Toxic foods — Garlic and onions, found in many of the savory dishes prepared for Thanksgiving, are toxic to our furry friends. Raw dough containing yeast (the type used for making bread and rolls) also poses a health risk. If ingested, the warm stomach environment acts as an oven, and the dough will begin to rise. The enlarged mass of dough can obstruct or even rupture your pet’s stomach. The rising dough also releases alcohols, which can cause alcohol poisoning.
- Bones — Chicken and turkey bones can easily lodge in your pet’s throat or GI tract, warranting surgical removal. Poultry bones are also known to splinter into sharp fragments that can puncture the stomach or intestinal wall. Although not a traditional Thanksgiving food, ham bones—and ham meat itself—should never be fed to pets. Ham contains dangerously high levels of salt and the bones easily crumble into pieces that can be swallowed and cause a GI obstruction.
- Toxic plants — Mistletoe and holly are popular holiday plants that can cause significant toxicity if ingested. The leaves and berries of both can induce vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Mistletoe ingestion can even cause hallucinations, seizures, and death. Lilies are also popular and, if gnawed on by a curious feline, can cause acute kidney failure. Poinsettias are only mildly toxic, with sap that causes local irritation to the mouth and GI tract.
- Christmas tree — To cats in particular, the Christmas tree may seem like a tempting jungle gym. Unfortunately, the tree can easily topple over if your pet tries to climb it. Secure it to a nearby structure with fishing line or wire.
Low-hanging ornaments that dangle within paw’s reach may be shattered into sharp pieces or eaten. Breakable and edible ornaments should be placed high on the tree where pets can’t reach them. Cats are also drawn to tinsel and will often chew on it and eat it, which puts them at risk for life-threatening GI problems that can require surgical intervention.
Electrical cords for tree lights and other decorations should be tucked out of sight to avoid temptation. A pet who chews through a cord can suffer severe electrical burns or even electrocution.
Avoid adding chemicals to the Christmas tree water, which animals may sneak a drink of. The water in the tree stand, which often sits around for several weeks, can also harbor bacteria that can make a pet sick. Sprinkle white pepper around the tree skirt and lower branches to deter your pet from playing with the tree and water.
- Foreign bodies — The aftermath of Christmas morning—with bits of wrapping paper, packaging, and tiny toy parts littering the floor—is a GI foreign body waiting to happen. Puppies, kittens, and even mischievous adult pets, can quickly gobble these things up. During gift time, place your pet in another room or in a crate with a favorite chew toy to keep her occupied. After unwrapping gifts, clean up all scraps of paper and packaging, and make sure all small toys are accounted for and kept out of reach.
Have questions about how to keep your pet safe during the holidays? Call us at 704-827-7422.