We can’t believe the holiday season is already here! We LOVE winter and its many festivities, including twinkly lights, colorful decorations, thoughtful presents and tons of yummy food! However, with so much fun and excitement, it can be easy to forget about how these changes might affect your furry friends. There are a lot of hazards introduced to pets around the holiday season that you may not even think about! Especially if you have a young and curious creature, make sure you consider these potentially dangerous items:
Foods That May Harm Your Pets
You may know what you can and can’t feed your pets, but if you are hosting or attending a holiday party there may be many people around your animals that are unaware of life threatening foods. With all the hustle and bustle, your pets might find a way to sneak some grub. Be aware of these hazardous foods:
Turkey and Chicken: Turkey and chicken skin in particular is quite hazardous to your pet’s health — even in small amounts. Very high in fat and often containing spices, oils, etc., skin and other high fat foods can cause pancreatitis and lead to death. An animal suffering from pancreatitis will vomit, have abdominal pain and be lethargic. You also need to be wary of bones in chicken and turkey. They are choking hazards and can splinter in a pet’s digestive tract causing serious problems.
Onions and Garlic: Sulfides are found in both onions and garlic. Sulfides are toxic to dogs and cats, leading to anemia if enough is consumed. Roughly 1/4 cup onion can make a 20 lb. dog sick. Cats are even more sensitive. Cooking does not reduce the toxicity, so you should avoid them at all times. While neither is safe for pets, onions have been found to be more toxic than garlic.
Beer: It may sound odd, but some people like to share a drink with their pup. And dogs are often okay with it as they tend to quite enjoy the taste of beer. Don’t share a cold one with them just yet! Any alcohol is unsurprisingly unhealthy for dogs and the hops in beer are particularly toxic.
Nuts: While you may regularly feed your pup peanut butter, there are some nuts that are really bad for dogs. Avoid walnuts and macadamia nuts at all times! They can cause a toxic reaction and within 12 hours of consumption a dog may be unable to stand, vomiting, with fever, weak and have an elevated heart rate. This can lead to deadly shock.
Raisins and Grapes: Raisins in particular tend to find their way into holiday foods and are extremely poisonous to your pup! Both grapes and raisins are toxic to your dog and if eaten can cause acute (sudden) kidney failure. Depending on the size of your dog, as little as 15 grapes or 30 raisins could be deadly.
Yeast Dough, Chocolates and Other Sweets: Did you know that dough can rise in your pets stomach and cause severe bloating and painful gas? Make sure to keep all sweets out of reach this holiday season! Especially dangerous are items containing artificial sweetener, xylitol, which has been linked to liver failure and death in dogs, and chocolate. The darker the chocolate the more dangerous as dark chocolate contains more caffeine and theobromine which can cause muscle spasms, seizures, internal bleeding and even a heart attack.
If you suspect your pet has eaten food that may be problematic, contact your vet immediately!
Within a few hour time span they should be able to induce vomiting if necessary and start treatment. Make sure you keep these emergency numbers on hand this holiday season:
- Your veterinarian’s phone number
- 24/7 emergency veterinary clinic (if different)
- ASPCA Poison Control Hotline: 1-888-426-4435 (fee may apply)
You can still celebrate the holiday season with your animal friends! Some pet-friendly foods you can share include:
- Apple (excluding the seeds — they are toxic!)
- Sweet potato and yam (cooked)
- Yogurt (plain)
- Cheese (small portions)
- Broth (low-sodium, spice free)
Decorations That Can Be Dangerous To Your Pets
Holiday decorations are the best… well maybe not for your pets. There are a number of hazards introduced to a home throughout the holiday season that are exciting to curious animals. Keep your pets out of the trouble this year and stay mindful about the following items:
Christmas Tree: Make sure you securely anchor your tree by fastening it to the wall or weighing down the stand so it doesn’t tip or fall. It is not uncommon for cats and dogs to try and reach ornaments or climb the tree, causing it to topple. Experts recommend leaving your tree up undecorated for 2-3 days to let pets get accustomed to it before adding delicate ornaments and decorations. When you do decorate, put fragile items up top where they are out of reach from wagging tails and curious paws.
You also will want to verify that your pets can’t drink the tree water. Fir tree oils themselves are irritating to the mouth and stomach. Furthermore, trees are often sprayed with harmful chemical fertilizers and pesticides. These leach out into the water making it unhealthy for your pets to drink. Not to mention, stagnant tree water is a wonderland for breeding bacteria that can make your pet sick. Opt for a covered tree dish and avoid the issue altogether!
Holiday Plants: There are a number of holiday plants that can cause upset to your pets digestive tract and worse! A holiday classic, holly, can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea if ingested. When eaten, mistletoe may be responsible for gastrointestinal upset and cardiovascular problems. Other common holiday plants that can be dangerous include: amaryllis, balsam, pine, cedar, poinsettias, and lilies. Learn more about which plants are toxic to dogs here and cats here.
Tinsel and Ribbons: Cats love shiny toys they can bat at and carry around in their mouths. Tinsel is nearly irresistible! However, if ingested tinsel can lead to intestinal blockages and severe vomiting that may require expensive surgery. Ribbons from presents and fishing wire used in holiday decorations (think popcorn and cranberries strung on a line) are also problematic if eaten.
Christmas Lights and Wires: Some animals love chewing on cords and the holidays tend to leave a lot exposed! Chewing on light strings can cause electrical shock and burns to your pets. Try to keep wires out of reach when possible and regularly check exposed cords for chew marks.
Ornaments and Decorations: Many ornaments and holiday decorations are fragile. Often made of delicate glass, ornaments can cause gastrointestinal blockages and ruptures when eaten and may also be toxic. Broken ornaments may also be sharp and cause injuries when stepped on or batted around.
Candles: You should never leave a pet unattended near lit candles. Pets can burn themselves or start a fire by knocking over candles. Always make sure you place burning candles on a stable surface out of your pets reach and extinguish any flames before leaving the room.
Holiday Visitor and Travel Tips for Your Pets
It is not uncommon for households to experience holiday traveling or visitors. Both scenarios can be more stressful for your pet than anticipated and you should plan accordingly!
Give Them Space: Make sure your pets have a quiet place of their own to escape to at all times! New people and smells can equal a lot of distress for cats and dogs. Consider moving food, water and litter if necessary so your animals can access everything without leaving their safe haven.
Watch the Exits: Newcomers may not be aware of your pets or house rules. If your pets cannot be let outdoors, make sure you let visitors or hosts know. Doors are frequently left ajar when bringing in luggage and supplies. Don’t let your pets slip out in the chaos!
Unplug: If you are leaving pets home for quick holiday trips make sure you unplug decorations that might be chewing temptations.
Check with Your Vet: If you are traveling and boarding your pets or taking them with you, you will want to make sure there are no special vaccines needed to prevent contagious diseases or medical paperwork you don’t have copies of. If travelling with pets internationally or driving on the interstate you may need to provide copies of medical information along the way, so make sure it is on hand!
Pets in Vehicles: When in a vehicle, pets should always be safely restrained. Proper restraint means a secure harness or carrier, placed out of out of the way of any air bags. This prevents animals from flying out the windshield or escaping from a window if there is an accident in harsh winter conditions. Make sure you bring plenty of water and don’t forget to feed your pets regularly during long road trips! If your pets suffer from travel anxiety, there are a number of calming sprays and medications you can give them. Ask your vet what might work best for your animals!
Pack for Your Pet: Whether you are bringing them with you, leaving them at a boarding facility or with friends, make sure you pack appropriately for your pets. Alongside their typical medications, food and supplies, think about including a pet first aid kit and a favorite toy from home to keep them comfortable!
The holidays can be such a fun and magical time for everyone. Take some extra precautions this year to make sure your pets stay safe!
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Skip the Sweets: By now you know not to feed your pets chocolate and anything sweetened with xylitol, but do you know the lengths to which an enterprising pet will go to chomp on something yummy? Make sure to keep your pets away from the table and unattended plates of food, and be sure to secure the lids on garbage cans.