2007-12-14 / Community

Holiday Trimmings Can Be Dangerous To Pets

Tree trimmings, lights and candles may set the perfect mood this holiday season, but ornaments, tinsel and other holiday items can be a recipe for disaster for our furry family members. Specialty veterinarians at NYC Veterinary Specialists & Cancer Treatment Center in Manhattan and Florida Veterinary Specialists in Tampa say families everywhere can avoid emergency room visits by keeping a simple thought in mind: animals must be separated from dangerous items in your homes.

Common holiday hazards pet parents should watch out for include:

'People Food'& Table Scraps - "Around the holiday season, there is always a lot of buzz about the dangers of chocolate (definitely a no-no!) and raisins (can cause kidney failure in dogs). But the biggest problems we see over the holidays are emergencies related to table scraps," explains Dr. David Bessler, Emergency Medicine Clinician at NYC Veterinary Specialists. "Whenever we gather for large family meals, we love to include our pets as part of the family. Great idea, but do it right!" urges Dr. Bessler. "Dogs should not be fed fatty 'people-food', not because it will make them fat, but because it can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and pancreatitis, an often fatal disease which claims the lives of thousands of dogs every year. Keep 'people-food' away from dogs, like you keep candles away from a baby."

Bones - "There is no safe bone. Chicken bones, cooked or uncooked, beef bones and fish bones have all killed dogs. Bones get stuck in the esophagus, stomach, and intestines and can poke through the walls of those organs, meaning almost certain death," warns Dr. Bessler. "To those people who say, 'but dogs eat bones in the wild!' I say, 'Bones kill dogs in the wild too.'Abone that fits down the throat of a wolf does not fit down the throat of a Yorkie."

Cords & Tree Lights - Electrocution is prevalent in young animals such as puppies or kittens that are more apt to explore objects by mouthing or chewing objects, such as electrical cords and tree lights.

Real Christmas Trees - "Alot of pet owners are choosing to go with artificial trees," says Dr. Sonja Olson, Head of Emergencies at Florida Veterinary Specialists. "It's not that real Christmas trees are toxic to pets, but tree needles can be irritating and extremely harmful to pets' digestive tracts when swallowed. Pets also like to drink tree water, which may sort of taste like tea, but it can also be harmful to their digestive tracts, so people have to be sure to cover up the tree water and keep pets from drinking it."

Ornament ingestion - According to Dr. Bessler, "The glass tree ornaments look like regular toys to dogs, so they'll bite into them and get a mouth full of glass."

Chocolate - It's always best to keep a pet away from chocolate. While it takes a large amount of milk chocolate to make an animal sick, "dark chocolate is 10 times more poisonous," according to Dr. Bessler. "The worst is baking chocolate."

Potpourri - According to Dr. Olson, "Potpourri and especially the oil-based potpourri people often burn over a flame, can be very harmful to pets. Cats will lick it off of their paws and ingest it. This type of oil is a very significant irritant when ingested. It's important to make sure our four-legged children stay far away from any kind of potpourri."

Plant Ingestion - While many holiday plants are not fatally poisonous to animals, poinsettias and holly can cause mouth irritation, drooling, vomiting and diarrhea. In cats, ingestion of lilies can cause kidney failure.

Bread Dough/Yeast - Dogs may sneak some bread dough meant for holiday treats. In the process of rising, the dough expands in the stomach and the yeast produces ethanol. This can lead to severe problems, including alcohol poisoning, stomach distension and potential torsion.

Tinsel - "Cats will play with tinsel and eat it," adds Dr. Bessler. The problem is it can become impacted in their intestines. "Sometimes the strings can cause their intestines to get bunched up into a knot. And, if the problem continues, it can actually saw through the intestines."

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