Pets & Holidays

Thanks to an American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) press release for this information:

There’s nothing better than gathering with friends and family for the holidays; eating, drinking, and putting up festive decorations. While enjoying this time of year, the ASPCA wants pet parents to be aware of potential hazards that certain goodies and decor can pose to our furry friends.

“Many of our winter habits and holiday traditions could pose a potential threat to our companion animals,” says Dr. Steven Hansen, a board-certified veterinary toxicologist and senior vice president of the ASPCA’s Animal Health Services, which includes the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center in Urbana, Ill. As you begin to prepare for a pfestive season, remember to be wary of activities that can be potentially dangerous to pets.

To keep pets happy and healthy during the holiday season, the ASPCA offers pet owners the following helpful hints:

Avoid a sour stomach
Tis the season for overeating, but remember to keep your pets on a normal diet. Any change of diet, even for one meal, can give your dog or cat severe indigestion and diarrhea. “Please don’t give pets holiday leftovers, and do keep them out of the garbage,” advises Dr. Louise Murray, director of medicine at the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital in NYC. Poultry bones can splinter and cause blockages, while greasy, spicy and fatty foods can cause stomach upset.

Use caution with cocktails
If your plans include adult holiday beverages, be sure to place unattended alcoholic drinks where pets cannot reach them. If ingested, the animal could become very sick and weak and may go into a coma, possibly resulting in death from respiratory failure.

Skip the sweets
Several popular holiday treats are toxic to pets. Candies containing the sweetener xylitol can be poisonous to dogs. Even small amounts of xylitol can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar, which leads to depression, lack of coordination, seizures and even liver failure in certain cases. “Chocolate, especially baker’s and dark chocolate, can also be potentially poisonous to animals, especially dogs,” advises Dr. Hansen. Symptoms of significant chocolate ingestion may include vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity and increased thirst and urination, as well as abnormal heart rate/rhythm and even seizures. Cats also love to play with candy wrappers, but ingesting aluminum foil or cellophane can pose a choking hazard or cause intestinal blockage.

Floral arrangements should be given forethought
Be careful with holiday floral arrangements and Christmas tree decorations. Lilies are commonly used this time of year and all varieties, including Tiger, Asian, Japanese Show, Stargazer and Casa Blanca can cause kidney failure in cats. In addition, common Yuletide plants such as mistletoe and holly berries can be potentially toxic to pets. Should a cat or dog eat mistletoe, they could possibly sugger gastrointestinal upset and in rare cases, cardiovascular problems. Holly can cause vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy if ingested.

Cover the Christmas tree water
Christmas tree water may contain fertilizers which, if ingested, could cause stomach upset. Stagnant tree water can also act as a breeding ground for bacteria, and if ingested a pet could end up with abdominal discomfort, vomiting and diarrhea.

Decorations can be dangerous
Consider decorating your tree with ornaments that are relatively less enticing to pets, such as dried non-toxic flowers, wood, fabric or pine-cones. Traditional decorations such as ribbons or tinsel, if ingested, can become lodged in the intestines and cause intestinal obstruction. This is a very common problem, particularly with cats. Also take care to prevent your pets from having access to glass ornaments, wires and cords from holiday decorations. If chewed, such ornaments can damage your pet’s mouth from shards of glass or plastic, while a wire can deliver a potentially lethal electric shock.

Careful with candles
Ensure any candle decorations are kept well out of your pets’ reach. Animals can easily knock over holiday candles and start a fire, and curious kittens are particularly at risk of getting burned by candle flames.