Hidden dangers for pets in the holiday season

 With Christmas Day just around the corner, and holiday preparations coming to a peak, pet owners should be reminded to think about safety during this special time of year.
   Traditionally, the food that is readily available around the house during celebrations may be too tempting for your four-footed friends to resist.  Chocolate is tasty but contains theobromine which can cause tremors, seizures and even coma and death in dogs and cats.  As little as a few squares of baking chocolate may be fatal; try to keep those boxes of treats out of reach.  Fatty foods and party leftovers should be properly disposed of as they may be eaten by your pet, leading to excessive weight gain, tummy upset, diarrhea even serious pancreatitis requiring hospitalization.  Some nuts, especially macadamia nuts, contain toxins which can be harmful to dogs in larger quantities.  If your pets absolutely need to snack, try to give them healthy treats such as raw veggies or low calorie dog or cat treats.
   Seasonal plants such as lilies, amaryllis and poinsettias should be kept off the floor and watched for evidence of snacking.  Poinsettias contain a sap that is extremely irritating and can cause burning, swelling and pain when eaten.  Eating mistletoe can cause tremors, vomiting and abdominal pain.  Lilies and other bulb plants can cause local irritation as well as kidney damage when swallowed.  Water additives meant to keep your Christmas tree around longer can make your pet sick if they are drinking from the tree-stand.  If your animals are interested in the plant life, try planting them some “cat grass” or give them fresh catnip to give them some holiday fun.
   Holiday decorations going up in the house should be made as safe as possible for your pets.  Tree ornaments, especially those made with glass or with stick pins, should be kept off the floor to avoid cutting curious mouths and paws.  Plastic tinsel on the tree can be very interesting to cats but can cut through their stomach and intestines if swallowed.  A good alternative is rigid metal tinsel which does not bend and is hard to swallow!  Electrical cords and strings of lights can be tempting to chew on but the currents running through them can lead to burns on the lips and tongue and even to electrocution.  Try to keep these out of reach and provide interesting toys for the pets to play with instead.
   For peace of mind, check your local veterinary office for a list of their business hours over the Christmas holidays.  Most pet related hazards are easy to prevent, so have a great holiday season and keep your pet safe.
   Tiffany Durzi, DVM is
   Assistant Professor at
   St. Matthew’s University
   School of Veterinary Medicine