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Posted on 11-15-2016

The holidays are full of festive delights.  We decorate our homes, start baking, and prepare to feast like kings.  We find ourselves busier than ever as we prepare for gatherings with family and friends and possibly travel.  In the middle of all of this we find our pets ready to join in the fun.  Unfortunately many of our holiday delights can be health hazards to our pets so here is a look at some of the most common hazards and how to keep our furry companions healthy and safe.

Tinsel and ornaments are some of the first signs that the holidays are upon us.  They can also be some of the most hazardous decorations for your pets.  Cats are especially attracted to tinsel.  They love to play with it and unfortunately they love to eat it.  Tinsel can cause a fatal intestinal obstruction in cats as it causes the intestines to bunch and can actually saw through it.  It can be treated if caught early but requires an expensive surgery and hospital stay.

Ornaments are attractive to both dogs and cats.  Some are scented and will attract pets to chew on them.  Ornaments are fun to knock of the tree and play with. Breakable ones can result in injured paws and mouths.  If the ornament is ingested it may present a choking hazard or cause an intestinal blockage.  Try to keep the more fragile and attractive ornaments near the top of the tree.  This is also a good time to discuss the tree itself.  Kitties love to climb Christmas trees.  And frisky puppies may bump into to trees.  You want to be sure your tree is securely anchored so it won’t tip and fall resulting in possible injury.  Also be aware that the tree water may contain fertilizers or bacteria that could cause some stomach upset if your pet drinks from it.

My favorite part of the holidays is the lights.  Unfortunately Christmas lights also present a serious risk to pets.  If your pet likes to chew the lights are often a big temptation.  When a pet bites down on an electrical cord they may injure their tongue but they may very well be electrocuted.  Regularly check your holiday lights for signs of fraying or chewing and use a three prong extension cord as a safety precaution.  If you use candles as decorations be sure they are in an out of reach place that is sturdy so that you pet cannot turn it over.  Candles can be a fire hazard and hot wax can result in burns.

Pets often like to try to unwrap the gifts that have been placed under the tree.  Be aware both before and after opening gifts that bows and strings on gifts can result in choking hazards or similar intestinal blockages to tinsel.  This is true also of decorations put on your pet’s collar.

Most people have an abundance of holiday treats in their homes over the holidays and they can present many hazards to pets.   Chocolate can be toxic to both dogs and cats.  The risk of toxicity is dependent on the type of chocolate with darker chocolates generally being more dangerous than lighter varieties.  Depending on the type and amount of chocolate ingested pets may exhibit vomiting, diarrhea, urination, hyperactivity, heart issues, tremors, and seizures.  Many people want to share their holiday meat with their pets.  Fat trimmings from both cooked and uncooked meat can result in a very sick pet from pancreatitis.  Bones can cause illness and intestinal obstructions.  Various nuts can results in anything from an upset stomach to an obstruction to seizures.  So take special care to put the holiday goodies where your pet can not get into them and resist the urge to share.

Holiday plants are abundant at this time of year.  Pine needles, holly, mistletoe, and poinsettias are all frequently found in homes during this time and can result in many problems.  Frequently vomiting and diarrhea will be the first sign of ingestion of any of these plants.  But they may progress to difficulty breathing or walking, behavior changes, collapse, and even death depending on the plant and the amount ingested.  Be sure these plants are placed in areas your pet can not reach.

The holidays frequently bring with them numerous visitors to your home and also changes to your schedule.  Some pets will become stressed from visitors to your home or changes to your daily routine.  Your pets may exhibit signs of separation anxiety with excess vocalization or destructive behavior.  They may also develop diarrhea from stress.  It is also important that guests do not share food and treats with your pet, especially without your knowledge. This may results in anything from vomiting and diarrhea to pancreatitis.  It may be beneficial to give your pet a “quiet room” so that he may escape the festivities and have some calm.  If your pet is one to get underfoot quiet space will also help prevent injuries from being stepped on or injuries to your guests from tripping over him.

Don’t forget weather as a possible hazard during this time of year.  If you are leaving town you may want to consider boarding your pet in case a cold front comes through.  Be sure any pets left outside have plenty of water that won’t freeze and a warm enclosure.

With a little preparation and pet proofing hopefully everyone will have a safe and happy holiday season!

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