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The Vet’s Perspective: Holiday Hazards

Author: Joyce Heideman, DVM

 

Christmas-DogWithSantaCapThe holidays are a special time of year for most of us and can be a very joyous time. Unfortunately, they also bring their own set up hazards and risks for your pet. These include foreign body ingestion, accidental poisonings and feeding problems. This is a list of some “Holiday Hazards” and how to avoid them.

Start by looking at the decorations in your home. Anything that is “new and shiny” can look inviting to your pet to play with and unfortunately, ingest. The Christmas tree is beautiful, but full of hazards for both dogs and cats. Avoid tinsel! Many cats love to play with tinsel, string, yarn, or ribbon but, if ingested it can cause twisting and rupture of the intestines, which can be fatal. Glass ornaments can also be very dangerous in the mouths and stomachs of our pets. Place them out of reach, or use only plastic ornaments. Even the water in the base of the tree can contain secretions from the tree that can cause the pet to become ill. And, of course, the string of lights is very appealing as a chew toy to kittens, cats, and puppies alike. Also, realize that fresh cut trees can result in a break in the rules of house training for some dogs. Why else would you have brought the outdoors inside for them?

Accidental poisonings often result from plants or edible gifts we receive or make at this time of year. Poinsettia, mistletoe and the root of the amaryllis plant are very pretty and a true sign of the holidays, but all can be very toxic. Keep these plants and decorations well out of reach of your pets, or don’t bring them into the home at all. Most people are aware that chocolate is toxic to dogs, and candy dishes should be kept out of reach, but, how about that box of candy under the tree for the newspaper person, or mail carrier? Don’t believe that just because it is wrapped, your pet won’t be able to smell it and open it! Dark chocolate is more dangerous that milk chocolate and many of us bake with baker’s chocolate, which is the most toxic to our pets. Be careful to keep these, and the finished products, away from our pets. For a small dog, even a small piece of milk chocolate can result in toxicity. Macadamia nuts are another important toxin that we often bake with this time of year. Macadamia nuts are extremely toxic to dogs, even in small amounts and can cause ataxia, weakness, coma and even death.

dreamstime_15859626While we are on the topic of edibles, be careful with too many “tastes” from the table. A small portion on a rare occasion may be a nice treat, but too much, too often or inappropriate items can mean trouble. Stay away from fatty meats, poultry skin, bacon, or gravy. All of these are very high in fat and can cause digestive upset or deadly pancreatitis. Poultry bones, no matter how big, should be avoided as they have a tendency to splinter and can lacerate or puncture the intestinal tract. Along the same lines, it is tempting to get your pet the largest rawhide you can find, or a stocking filled with all sorts of edible treats. Remember not to give them all the treats at once or let them consume the rawhide in one sitting. Even if they’re used to rawhides and other treats, too much at once can cause digestive upset that can be serious.

Happy Holidays! I hope this helps you relax and enjoy the holidays without the dangers they can pose to our pets.

Dr. Joyce Heideman DVM
Southside Animal Hospital
5134 S Martin Luther King Jr Blvd
Lansing, Mich. 48891
517-882-6614

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