Holiday Dangers for your Pets by Jenna B, RVT

The Holliday season is a very festive time of year that brings family and friends together. This should be a very joyful time for all, so to avoid some unexpected emergencies with your pets I’ve made up a list of things that you should be looking out for this season:

Decorations: Many Christmas decorations are shiny and colorful, which is what attracts your dog or cats! Your cat batting a garland might seem innocent and cute, but can lead to many troubles if he starts to bite and eat it. Many types of decorations can be dangerous if ingested by a pet and cause a foreign body impaction. Most foreign bodies aren’t able to go through the digestive tract on their own, so that means surgically having to remove it. Definitly not what any pet owner would want, especially around the holidays!

Poinsettias: This type of plant is very popular around Christmas time. Many people fear that poinsettias are deadly to animals, but this is unlikely. In fact, your pet would need to ingest a large amount of this plant to become a fatal danger. However, Poinsettia leaves can be very irritating to the tissues of the mouth and eosophagus if ingested. This will usually cause your pet to have nausea and vomiting.

Mistletoe and Holly: These are also a very popular choice for the holidays. They have a higher toxicity level than the poinsettia mentionned above. If the plant or berries are ingested, your pet could have severe intestinal upsets including vomiting, diarrhea, excessive drooling and abdominal pain. Mistletoes are even known to bring on more severe symptoms like a severe drop in blood pressure, hallucinations and respiration issues. If a large enough amount is ingested, they can bring on seizures and can be fatal. Call your veterinary professional immediately if you see a pet ingesting these plants.

Christmas Trees: Cats have the natural instinct to climb trees and will most likely attempt to climb up your Christmas tree. It is definitly  a good idea to tie the tree or get a very sturdy base so it doesn’t topple over. Placing your tree a good distance away from any other furniture will also reduce the chance of the cat trying to launch itself into the tree. A good trick is also to line the trunk of the tree with alluminum foil so cats cannot find good grip to climb the tree. Another good tip I’ve heard of is to spray the tree with a litle orange juice; cats hate the smell of citrus. You could also consider decorating your tree with plastic ornaments instead of breakable materials and twist the ornament’s wire around the branch instead of hanging them loosely. Avoid decorating too much on the bottom of the trees so nothing will seem too enticing at the cat’s eye level. Another important question to ask is which is better? Real tree vs artificial tree.

Real Christmas trees are considered to be mildly toxic. The oils in the tree can be irritating to the mouth and stomach and can cause vomiting and excessive drooling. The pine needles aren’t easily digestible either and can cause an obstruction in the digestive tract. The tree water is also a concern if drank. The water could contain preservatives, pesticides, fertilizers… Make sure to cover the water container.

Artificial Christmas trees could be a risk for obstruction and foreign body if ingested.

Candles: A lot of people find peace and serenity with lit candles around their home.  Make sure you put these candles out of reach from your dog or cat. They might not even do it on purpose, but if that excited dog’s tail gets too close, it might just take a second before that candle in knocked off the coffee table. Also a huge risk for burn injuries. These precautions should be taken year round.

Chocolates and other sweets: A lot of people get chocolate or candy as gifts during the holidays and these should always be put away so your pet does not think its a treat for them. Ingestion of a lot of high-fat, sugary candy can put your pet in huge risk for pancreatitis. Symptoms might not even show until a few days later; vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, decreased appetite, elevated heart rate…
Chocolate contains Theobromine which is a toxin for cats and dogs, and really should not be ingested in any amount. The rule of thumb is the darker the chocolate, the more of this toxin it will contain, and the more dangerous it will be. If any chocolate is ingested, please call your veterinarian. They can make calculations and judge the severity and risks of the toxicity and can decide if it would be beneficial to induce vomiting.

Turkey bones: Lots of families will make big turkey dinners and have dogs waiting under the table for any droppings of table food they can get their paws on. One of the biggest dangers of this is the innocent looking turkey bones. When cooked, bones become very brittle and can break into very sharp, jagged edges. If ingested, these can make your dog very sick, but the worst fear would be if one of those sharp edges pierced through the stomach or intestinal wall. They could even get stuck on their way down in the eosophagus. Turkey bones are a big no no for your dog and you should make sure all your guests are aware of this so all of these serious risks can be avoided!

Wrapping Paper, Bows and String: Make sure to keep ripped up wrapping paper, bows and strings out of your pet’s reach. Some cats will not leave them alone even when the present is all wrapped up. In this case, you might even have to hide your presents in a closet or area where your cat can’t reach to avoid them eating any of these and causing a foreign body.

I wish you all a very safe holiday season and hope that you get to spend some quality time with your dear loved ones. Hopefully this list will help you recognize the dangers around your pets and make you reconsider a few decoration choices or at least be aware and vigileant of your pets’ surroundings. Remember that Christmas can be a very scary time for your pets with visitors coming in and out,  all the changes in furniture placement, things hanging and falling… Try to make it as relaxing as possible for your pet and keep toys and familiar things around.

Happy Holidays!