Holidays create pet hazards

December 10, 2003

For a carefree, happy holiday, we need to be aware of special hazards that our festivities can create for our pets. Knowing them, we can avoid them.

First, there are four major holiday plants that are commonly used this time of year. The poinsettias have always been on this list, even though the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has recently stated that the toxic potential of this plant is overstated. Still, the white sap from this plant can cause gastrointestinal irritations; some symptoms may be increased salivation, vomiting and diarrhea. It is easier to place the plants up where your pets can't get to them, than to have to stop and clean up after them.

Remember that cats can jump higher than most dogs, and cats like to rub and nibble on indoor plants too.

The second plant to handle with care is mistletoe. All parts of the plant are toxic, even the berries, and since the berries are apt to drop off as the sprig dries out, care should be taken when placing these plants over doorways or in halls. Mistletoe may cause severe symptoms including seizures and since the minimum dose has not yet been determined, it is best to check the floor under any hanging sprigs and clean up immediately.


The third plant is holly. All varieties are considered potentially harmful, so again, be sure your holly is placed out of temptation's way.

The fourth group includes Christmas trees, not so much the plants themselves as the hazards of the water reservoir which can be contaminated with fertilizers, or bacteria growing in the stagnant water. Covering the base of the tree with a skirt or cloth will keep your thirsty pet from trying the newest water source. Another hazard trees provide are the electric cords that puppies like to chew on and the breakable ornaments.

Other holiday hazards to be aware of include: chocolates, pennies with their high concentration of zinc, potpourri oils, cigarettes, coffee grounds and alcoholic drinks. Chocolates, especially those made with dark chocolate (baking chocolate) can cause problems with as little as one-half ounce or less of chocolate per pound body weight. Even small amounts can cause pancreatic problems. If your dog ingests the chocolate candies meant for the guests, a quick trip to the veterinarian is essential.

Pets are curious, so it is normal for them to investigate things like cigarettes or coffee grounds. In both cases the dog will probably stop once the taste is in his mouth, but by then the tobacco or grounds are sticking to the tongue and the damage is done.

Treats from the table should also be monitored. Any dish with onions or garlic should not be offered to your dog. Go easy on the amount of gravy because of the fat content, and use the giblets as special treats to avoid diarrhea.

It is well known that poultry bones have sharp edges when animals crack them and can perforate the esophagus, stomach or even the intestine, so use them for making soup instead. |None***

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