Every December, animal hospitals see an increase in emergency cases. Keeping pets safe during the holidays involves first knowing what items are dangerous and then keeping them out of the reach of pets.
While recent studies have shown that chocolate may be beneficial for human health, it is important to know that chocolate can be toxic, and sometimes even fatal, for animals. There are many seemingly innocuous forms of chocolate pets can get into during the holidays — chocolate coins, baking chocolate morsels, even chocolate-covered espresso beans and macadamia nuts can dispense an unhealthy dose of methylxanthines to pets. Cats, it’s important to note, can also be adversely affected if they ingest chocolate.
Household guests wouldn’t give your pets a sip of their alcoholic drink, but they may not think twice about a piece of rum cake. Pets may also inadvertently become poisoned if they eat any unbaked bread dough. Once ingested, Dr. Lee Says, “the stomach acts as an artificial oven that basically metabolizes the yeast [from the unbaked dough] into ethanol and carbon dioxide.” This can then cause the animal to bloat from the excess carbon dioxide and suffer from alcohol poisoning from the ethanol.
Grapes (and Raisins)
Grapes and raisins are other common hazards for pets during the holidays. It may sound unusual, but any candied raisins found in fruit cake or grapes found on appetizer platters could spell bad news for your pet. Holidays are a time when you could have a lot of visitors in your house and they are sometimes unaware that grapes and raisins are poisonous to dogs and cats.
Traveling household guests will leave open suitcases on the ground, where pets can easily get into prescription medications found in Zip-loc bags. Suddenly you have a pet that can get into 20 different medications all at once. Make sure your guests unpack their bag and store medications in a place where your pets can’t get into them.
Anyone who has a cat needs to really watch out for when using tinsel to decorate. You may be better off forgoing using tinsel on trees, wreaths, or garland this year. What looks like a shiny toy to your cat can prove deadly if ingested. Tinsel can result in a severe linear foreign body if ingested. A linear foreign body occurs when your cat swallows something stringy which wraps around the base of the tongue or anchors itself in the stomach, rendering it unable to pass through the intestines. As the intestines contract and move, this string or linear foreign body can slowly saw through the tissue, resulting in severe damage to your pet’s intestinal tract. Ultimately, pets run the risk of severe injury to, or rupture of their intestines and treatment involves expensive abdominal surgery.
Xylitol is a sugar substitute found in some sugar-free candies, gum and recipes. When ingested by pets, xylitol may cause vomiting, loss of coordination, seizures, and in severe cases, liver failure.
Although they look pretty, many holiday plants can be poisonous to pets. Mistletoe, Poinsettias, Holly and Christmas Cactus are all extremely toxic and can cause severe gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and neurologic effects if ingested. Christmas trees are also hazardous because not only are the pine needles poisonous, but also because of the bacteria and fertilizer harbored in the water stands (which pets are known to drink). Make sure your tree stand is covered and check around your holiday trees frequently. Ingested pine needles can also puncture your pet’s intestines.
This concentrated fragrance, which is typically simmered in a pot and then placed in a bottle for later use, can cause severe damage to your pet if ingested. Liquid potpourri contains chemicals called cationic detergents, which if ingested by cats, can result in severe chemical burns in the mouth, fever, difficulty breathing and tremors. Dogs are not as sensitive to the chemicals, but its best to keep potpourri out of their reach.
Many ornaments have sharp edges that can cause perforations and lacerations to pets that try to chew on the decorations. Make sure you buy plastic and shatterproof ornaments for your tree if you have curious pets that knock them off your tree.
Some animals love to chew electrical cords, and all the additional lights strung up around the house present a new hazard. To protect pets, turn off lights and unplug them when you aren’t home. If chewed, live electrical cords can cause burns in or around a pet’s mouth, difficulty breathing, seizures, and cardiac arrest.
Rich, fatty foods can cause illness, and ingested turkey bones can splinter and puncture internal organs. Small bones or bone chips can lodge in the throat, stomach, and intestinal tract. Fatty foods can also promote pancreatitis—a potentially dangerous inflammation of the pancreas that produces toxic enzymes and causes illness and dehydration.