DECEMBER 7, 2016

Dangers to Pets During the Holiday Season

By Dr. Jack Walkenhorst
The holidays are often called ‘the most wonderful time of the year,’ but they can also be the most dangerous time of the year for our pets. Veterinarian and Pets In Need volunteer board member, Dr. Jack Walkenhorst discusses holiday hazards for your pets to avoid. 

Holiday Plants

There are several plants we associate with the holidays that can be dangerous to pets: 

Christmas Lilies are the most dangerous holiday plant for pets. Ingesting them can cause significant and often irreversible damage to the kidneys, especially in cats. They should be kept securely out of a pet’s reach at all times.

Poinsettias, Mistletoe and Holly are all gastric irritants for pets that can cause discomfort and vomiting if ingested. It’s best to keep any of these plants out of reach during the holidays.

Christmas Trees can also pose a danger to pets, especially young or curious pets that like to play with them. If your pets are curious of the tree, make sure they’re either supervised when around it or that it’s stable and secure enough to not fall over and harm curious pets. Also, it’s probably best to prevent pets from drinking the tree water, especially if it contains an additive to help keep the tree fresh.

Holiday Decorations

From the tree trimmings to candles and more, the following holiday decorations can also pose a threat to pets:

Christmas Lights should be inspected for any exposed wires and animals should never be allowed to chew on them or play with them. Also, all lights should always be unplugged when pets are home alone to avoid shock or a potential house fire. Similarly, pets should always be supervised around candles to avoid burns or potential house fires if knocked over.

Ornaments and Hooks can also be dangerous to pets. Hooks can be swallowed and cause serious internal damage for pets, possibly puncturing internal organs. Broken glass ornaments can cause paw cuts. It’s important that the area around the tree be kept clean of any straggling hooks or broken ornaments.

Tinsel, yarn and ribbon are possibly the most dangerous Christmas decorations for animals, especially cats. If swallowed, any of these foreign objects will likely cause major and serious damage to the intestines. It’s best to avoid tinsel altogether if possible, and to make sure all of these items are kept far out of a pet’s reach.

Holiday Food

While it’s best to just avoid giving your pet table scraps altogether, here are some key holiday items to avoid:

Bones are a favorite for pets, especially dogs, so it might be surprising that they’re very dangerous. Turkey and chicken bones are especially dangerous because they’re soft and can break or splinter easily, creating sharp edges. If swallowed, these sharp bone fragments can get lodged in the pets esophagus or intestine and perforate it. Many people believe ham bones are okay because they’re stronger, but some pets can still break them, so it’s best to avoid bones all together. When throwing away dinner scraps pet owners should always make sure that pets can’t get ahold of them.

Table Scraps are best to be avoided altogether, but there are some key foods that can cause harm to pets during the holidays. Most people know that chocolate is bad for dogs, but ironically it’s actually the real bakers chocolate that is the most dangerous culprit, and not as much the “fake” milk chocolate that’s most prevalent in homes. Vomiting and diarrhea are the most common symptoms of chocolate toxicity, but ingestion of large amounts can cause more serious symptoms including seizures. However, sweets of any type should be avoided because they can cause an upset stomach and bad teeth for pets. Other common holiday foods to avoid include certain types of onions, garlic, grapes or raisins, and currants.