By Franc Von Esse, VMD, DAVBP, Associate Chief of Emergency and Critical Care, Director of Emergency Services at Saint Francis Veterinary Center
There are certain holiday traditions that have been known to pose potential threats to our furry loved ones, and, no, I’m not talking about your Aunt Claire’s famous fruitcake. Seemingly harmless holiday decorations and time-honored traditions can be hazardous and, in some cases, life-threatening to your pets if you aren’t careful during the holiday season. As you deck the halls this year and get ready to host your celebrations, consider the following common culprits and take the time to implement some quick and easy “pet-proofing” measures to ensure your whole family, critters included, enjoys a happy and healthy new year.
- Christmas Trees: Christmas trees pose the biggest threat to your pets’ health because while they look like tempting new toys, there are so many ways for them to potentially cause injury to your pet. For starters, make sure that your tree is securely in its stand and secured to a wall to prevent it from falling on your animals who may be tempted to linger underneath the branches. Any glass or plastic ornaments should be hung high on the tree and out of reach from your pets. The same rule applies for any lights or food, such as candy canes or popcorn garland you may adorn your tree with. Also, use a base that prevents your animals from drinking the tree water, as there may be fertilizer mixed in which can make your pet sick. Likewise, refrain from putting Aspirin in the tree water as well.
- Mistletoe & Holly: Christmas trees aren’t the only seasonal plants to watch out for; there are a few other hazardous plants you should avoid during the holiday season. While mistletoe is meant to spread holiday love, it can cause gastrointestinal and cardiovascular problems in your pets. Holly is another plant that can cause severe nausea and diarrhea, and certain types of lilies can cause kidney failure in cats. It is best to keep these plants out of reach or opt for their less charming, but ultimately safer, plastic alternatives.
- Holiday Cocktails: If spirits are a part of your holiday traditions, make sure that all drinks are well out of reach from your pets. During the hustle and bustle of holiday gatherings, many animals try and drink from unsupervised cups, and consumption of alcohol can potentially make your pet lethargic and can even lead to coma or death.
- Holiday Feasts: Many people want to let their pets indulge in the holiday spread, since they are part of the family after all. While most foods may be safe for your animal to eat, rich, fatty dishes will likely cause stomach irritation. Likewise, foods with raisins, grapes, macadamia nuts, uncooked dough and chocolates can cause problems ranging from bloating and gas to seizures and death. It’s best to fight the urge to share and simply give your pet their normal food.
- Tinsel: Cats especially are attracted to this sparkly, stringy decoration. When ingested, however, tinsel can obstruct the digestive tracts in cats and dogs and is a common reason for emergency surgeries during the holiday season.
For more information on how to keep your pets safe during the holiday season, please refer to these pet health articles, Holiday Safety Tips for Pet Owners . By identifying potential harms and taking the appropriate precautions beforehand, your family can sit back, relax, and enjoy the holidays without worrying about your pets’ health.