Holiday Pet Hazards

The holidays are coming, time for family gatherings and celebration—with abundant food, sweet treats, cocktails, hot, spicy beverages, and decorations. Most of us happily slip off our diets and allow ourselves some indulgence. Here are some tips to keep your pets safe—and not disrupt these fun times with a sick pet and a night at the vet hospital.

1) Holiday lights are an attraction for pets to chew on. Electrical shock can occur when pets chew on cords. Check all cords for chew marks, loose wires and any signs of short circuits. Electric shock causees oral burns, difficulty breathing, heart arrhythmias and death.
2) Keep all tinsel, string, and ribbon away from pets. Most pets see these things as toys and all of them can make your pet sick causing intestinal damage and obstruction.
3) During holiday time, we like to fill the air with fragrance —apple cinnamon, pumpkin spice, pine—but keep it away from pets. Many types of potpourri have some component that is toxic to animals. Do not allow your pets near bowls of potpourri.
4) Many of us like to give our pets a little table food during the holiday season. A little lean turkey is okay but be sure to avoid high-fat foods. Too many fatty treats can result in indigestion and/or pancreatitis. If severe, your pet may wind up in the hospital for several days.
5) Avoid pet access to grapes or raisins. Both have the potential to cause kidney failure.
6) Chocolate is toxic to dogs and cats. Theobromine is the toxic component in chocolate. Chocolate ingestion can result in heart arrhythmias, seizures, and death. If your pet eats any amount of chocolate, contact your veterinarian immediately. It’s helpful if you know what type of chocolate and amount that was ingested.
7) Poinsettias are not as toxic as previously thought. They do, however, contain a milky sap. If you have a pet that likes to chew on plants, this sap can cause severe mouth irritation and stomach upset.
8) Mistletoe and Holly are very toxic to animals. If your pet ingests any part of these plants, contact a veterinarian immediately. These plants can cause vomiting, diarrhea, labored breathing, and death within hours of being eaten.
9) Certain kinds of nuts are toxic to pets. Macadamia nuts and walnuts are especially toxic. Other, less toxic nuts will frequently cause vomiting and diarrhea.
10) Keep alcohol and caffeinated beverages away from pets.
11) Do not give your pets any foods containing onions or anything in the onion family. These foods are known to cause anemia in pets.
12) Do not allow your pets to drink the Christmas tree water. This water often contains fertilizers—and if the water becomes stagnant, it can breed bad bacteria.
13) Be careful giving your pets bones—chicken, turkey or any other. Any bones can get stuck your animal’s throat or intestinal tract.
14) Beware of sugar-free treats that contain Xylitol, which is toxic to pets. Used as a sugar substitute, Xylitol can cause hypoglycemia and liver damage to your furry loved ones.
15) Keep all antifreeze locked away from your pets. Some antifreezes taste sweet and are attractive to pets but may cause acute kidney failure and may result in death. Watch for vehicles that may leak antifreeze onto your garage floors.

If your pet shows signs of illness, contact your veterinarian immediately. You can also contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (at 1-888-4-ANI-HELP). Here’s to a happy holiday season for you and your pets.

Dr. Nicholson, DVM, a native of NY City, has extensive experience in Emergency Veterinary Medicine, Surgery, Internal Medicine, Oncology, Ophthalmology, Dermatology and Neurology, making her invaluable to both our team and our clients.