Christmas and the Holiday Season is upon us – already – it seems to come faster every year!
With all the excitement and hubbub, sometimes our pets are less supervised than usual. Without keeping a close eye on them, accidents happen. The most common occurrences we see are accidental ingestions.
Here is a short list of things to keep an eye on.
- Chewing through electric cords – we love the lights during the short days of winter. But the new lights and extension cords are tempting for puppies and even kittens to chew though. They can cause burns in the mouth and fatal electrocution. Keep the cords out of reach by hanging them high, or covering them with corrugated cord wraps that can be purchased at the local home improvement stores.
- Chewing up beloved Christmas ornaments – the tree branches put these ornaments right at eye level to most dogs. Pets can chew and swallow these fragile objects and not only can broken pieces form sharp edges that may lacerate your pet’s mouth, throat and intestines, they could also create a choking hazard. Hang bells and non-toxic unwrapped candy canes on the bottom branches. Hang those irreplaceable keepsakes up high, out of harms way. The bells will alert you that someone is nosing around the tree where they may not belong.
- Tinsel and Angel hair – are not toxic both are intriguing to dogs and cats. The shiny, dangling decoration reflects light and can move in the slightest draft — appearing to come alive to watchful critters. When swallowed, they can cause the intestines to bunch up on themselves and cause serious intestinal damage, requiring surgery to correct. Immediate veterinary care is required. Avoid using these or keep them high and out of reach.
- Christmas ribbons and bows – like tinsel, are fun especially for kittens to play with and can cause serious intestinal damage if swallowed.
- Knocking over the Christmas tree – we tether our tree to the ceiling with a plant sway hook. This will keep the tree safely standing despite the enthusiastic tail-wagging that goes on around the tree. Or from the new kitten who is delighted that you FINALLY installed a climbing tree in the living room.
- Candles – If you have candles on display, place them in a hard-to-reach spot so that your pets can not access them. Not only can pets seriously burn themselves, but knocking over candles creates a fire hazard and may leave a trail of hot wax that will easily burn the pads of paws and more.
- Drinking water with preservatives in it – keep the water source for the tree covered with plastic wrap so this does not become the new drinking fountain for your dogs and cats.
- Mistletoe and Holly – are both toxic. Keep the mistletoe safely hung in the doorway for people-smooching, away from dog lips. Poinsettia, contrary to popular belief, is not deadly; however, it can cause irritation to the mouth and stomach and sometimes vomiting if a large quantity has been consumed.
- Chocolate – this is frequently wrapped and tucked under the tree. While you are away, your dog is stalking the gifts. If you sniff and rattle your gift and suspect the gift is edible, hide it somewhere high. The same goes for raisins and macadamia nuts – they are toxic to dogs too. Macadamia nuts and moldy walnuts can be toxic, causing seizures or neurological signs. Lethargy, vomiting and loss of muscle control are among the effects of nut ingestion. Different types of chocolate contain various levels of fat, caffeine and the substances methylxanthines. In general, the darker and richer the chocolate (i.e., baker’s chocolate), the higher the risk of toxicity. Depending on the type and amount of chocolate ingested, dogs might experience vomiting, diarrhea, urination, hyperactivity, heart arrhythmias, tremors and seizures.
- Sugarless candy and gum – Santa often likes to bring sugarless candy and gum to the kids to keep their teeth safe. But even a small amount of xylitol, commonly found now in sugarless products, can be toxic to a dog. In small doses, it causes their blood sugar to drop, which leads to seizures. If more than a little is ingested, it can cause liver damage. Be sure Santa keeps these stocking stuffers out of reach.
- Fat trimmings and bones are dangerous for dogs. Fat trimmed from meat, both cooked and uncooked, may cause pancreatitis. And, although it seems natural to give a dog a bone, a dog can choke on it. Bones can also splinter and cause an obstruction or lacerations of your dog’s digestive system.
If you know or suspect your pet has ingested something toxic, contact National Animal Poison Control (888 426-4435) or Pet Poisons (855-764-7661) helpline.
Both have an associated fee – they are not free – and the human help lines cannot help with pets as there are foods like grapes, raisins, and xylitol that are toxic to pets that are not toxic to humans. IF you call a helpline, they will provide you with a case number that will follow you to the veterinary clinic if emergency care is needed. It will cost less to pay their fee than to go to the veterinarian for unnecessary treatment. Do not induce vomiting in your pet with ipecac or hydrogen peroxide as this can also cause damage to your pets. Seek immediate veterinary care.