Holidays may be festive, but for most of us they are far from peaceful! Left unattended, pets can get into mischief and serious trouble, so don’t forget to be prepared to protect your pets from these holiday hazards.
Most people know about chocolate’s potential to be poisonous, but also make sure to keep pets away from sugar-free candy and gum (which may contain xylitol), raisins and macadamia nuts (often found in trail mixes, cookies, and candy), grapes, bread dough, coffee, and alcohol.
Remember to ask well meaning friends and relatives to avoid giving table food to pets. Plates and food should be cleared from areas accessible to pets.
By now, many pet owners know that poinsettias are not as toxic as once believed. However, mistletoe, some evergreens (like some species of pine), holly bushes and berries, and aloe are potentially toxic, as well as some plants that are commonly found in holiday arrangements, such as lilies, baby’s breath, bird of paradise, daisies, and chrysanthemums
Treat-stuffed holiday stockings are fun to give, but you should not pick out any items that are new or different. New treats may cause your pet some digestive up set! Offering only one of these at a time (ideally separated by a few days) can make it easier to track the source if vomiting, diarrhea, or other problems occur.
New toys should be checked for small pieces that can be chewed off or broken and swallowed. sharp edges, or other potential hazards.
Indoor Holiday Decorations
Tinsel, angel hair, tree ornaments, ribbons, and string are well-known culprits. But even Christmas trees can pose a danger. Pets may eat the needles (even from artificial trees) or drink water from the tree stand, which can be toxic. Decorative lights can get hot enough to burn a pet, so keep them out of reach.
Outdoor Holiday Decorations
Extension cords, lights (which can get very hot), decorations that hang low enough to be chewed on, and decorations that can fall or blow over are just a few of the dangers that pets can encounter outside. Make sure to check food-related decorations (like pumpkins and corn cobs) regularly. Pets may eat these items, even after they begin to rot!
Electrical Cords and Outlets
Electrocution hazards include electrical cords, lights and other electrical decorations, and outlets (unused ones should be covered).
Heated Surfaces and Open Flames
Fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, candles, and portable heaters are just a few hazards to keep pets away from (or at least monitor when they are nearby). Not only can pets be burned, but candles or heaters can be knocked over and start a fire.
Fire and Carbon Monoxide
House fires and carbon monoxide-related deaths are doubly tragic around the holidays. Carbon monoxide poisoning can occur if pets are left in a garage with a running car or in a running car itself. Space heaters, furnaces, and similar appliances can also present a risk. Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to help ensure safer holidays.
Even outdoor pets can suffer frostbite and hypothermia if shelter is inadequate. If pets can’t be indoors during cold weather, ensure that clean (and unfrozen) water and safe, adequate shelter are available for outdoor pets. Pets (particularly cats) may seek warm places that are not safe such as car engines. Fan belt injuries and other trauma can occur.
Antifreeze and Alcohols
Most pet owners know something about the dangers of antifreeze, but don’t forget about methanol, a common component of windshield wiper fluid, and isopropanol, commonly found in hand sanitizer gel, windshield de-icing agents, and rubbing alcohol. All of these substances are toxic to your pets!
Salt and Chemical Ice Melts
Pet-safe ice melt products can be purchased at most home improvement and pet stores. However, pet owners should wash their pets’ feet with a warm cloth after the pet comes in from being outside. The ice melting products can have a caustic effect to your pets feet!
Vigilance Can Be the Best Protection
The holidays can be hectic, but all pet owners should “check in” with their pets at least a few times a day. Making sure the pet is eating and drinking, observing activity level, and (if possible) observing urination and defecation can make it easier to detect any changes. Please contact your Vet if you notice any signs of illness or behavior changes.
For More Information
If a toxic exposure is expected, the ASPCA’s Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 can be a valuable resource. Visit their Web site (http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/poison-control) for information.
Feel free to contact us here at Falls Road Veterinary Hospital with any questions or concerns. (301) 983-8400. http://www.fallsroadvet.com