Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
The winter holiday season brings some potential hazards for pets. Here are some tips to keep them safe over the holidays.
Tinsel: Cats like shiny tinsel—and they like to put it in their mouths. Swallowed tinsel can cause dangerous intestinal blockages, so keep tinsel off the tree if you have cats.
Other ornaments: Broken ornaments can injure paws. Any swallowed ornament can block the digestive tract. Hang ornaments made from salt dough (or anything else that’s attractive to your pets) out of their reach.
Christmas trees: Cats can tip over Christmas trees by climbing them. Consider anchoring your tree to the ceiling or a door frame, possibly with fishing line. If you have a live tree, don’t use water additives. These can harm pets who drink the water.
Snow globes and bubble lights: The liquid inside these decorations can be toxic to pets. According to the Pet Poison Helpline, some snow globes contain ethylene glycol (antifreeze), which is extremely dangerous if it’s swallowed. Old-fashioned bubble lights may contain methylene chloride, which is also toxic to pets (and children).
Liquid potpourri: Scented oils can cause mouth and digestive tract ulcers, skin irritation, and nausea. Cats are more sensitive than dogs to the toxic effects.
Lighting: Don’t leave pets alone in a room with lit candles, and be sure burning candles are out of reach of wagging tails. Keep electrical cords and batteries away from curious or fast-moving pets.
Plants: Lilies are highly toxic to cats. Holly, mistletoe, and amaryllis flowers and leaves can cause vomiting and diarrhea when ingested. Amaryllis bulbs and large quantities of mistletoe can cause more serious problems. Poinsettias are only mildly toxic, usually causing mild stomach upset. Christmas cactus is not considered toxic, although ingestion can cause mild vomiting and diarrhea. Christmas tree needles can irritate the digestive tract. Pets that ingest needles or water from Christmas trees may develop vomiting and diarrhea.
Food and Alcohol
Ask guests not to give your pets human food as treats. Don’t leave alcoholic beverages where pets can reach them, and clear food from the table before you let pets into the room. Cover your kitchen garbage can or take out the trash before your pets have a chance to investigate it. Chocolate, alcohol, grapes, raisins, yeast dough, sugarless candy, onions, bones, and fatty food (including gravy and turkey skin) are some of the foods that are hazardous to pets. See the November post about human foods that are toxic to pets for a more complete discussion.
Give your pets a quiet place indoors (a crate or quiet room) to get away from the hubbub of holiday parties. If retreating to a familiar safe zone is not enough to manage a pet’s anxiety, call us for other options. When visitors are entering and leaving your home, keep an eye on your pets to be sure they don’t escape. Be sure each pet has an identification collar, a microchip, or both. If guests will be bringing pets that yours have not already met, either keep the 2 sets of pets separated or introduce them slowly and watch them closely while they’re together.
If your pets are traveling with you out of state or out of the country, familiarize yourself with animal travel regulations. Schedule an appointment for a health certificate examination if needed. Pack a copy of their medical records (such as vaccination history) and all of their medications, including monthly heartworm and flea preventives if they will fall due while you’re traveling. Locate a 24-hour emergency veterinary clinic near your destination. If you are traveling by air, contact the airline in advance in case they have additional requirements. Tranquilizers are not recommended for pets traveling by air.
New Year’s Eve fireworks are challenging for pets who are fearful of loud noises. For pets who take antianxiety medication for noise phobia, check your supply and arrange for a refill if needed. See the post about noise phobia for more information.
Photo by Spiritze