Chocolate can be a poison to pets. Unsweetened baking chocolate care a very high dose of the toxin theobromine, followed by semi-sweet, dark and milk chocolate. Depending on the dose ingested, chocolate can cause vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, hyperactivity, increased thirst and urination, and an increased heart rate. Never leave gifts of chocolate under the tree, in stockings or on tables easily accessible to pets.
Grapes and raisins also should be singled out because they are toxic in 30% of animals. The toxin component is unknown and they typically cause irreversible kidney failure. Candies or gum containing the sweetener xylitol can cause a drop in blood sugar, resulting in depression, loss of coordination and seizures. Other things to keep out of your pet’s reach include yeast dough, coffee, and salt.
Live trees and plants
Tree needles can choke pets if ingested, and many holiday plants can cause serious problems. Poinsettia leaves can be irritating to the mouth and stomach of the dog or cat that chews on it. Certain mistletoes produce stomach upset, while others may lead to liver failure or seizures. The following plants also should be kept out of reach: Christmas berries, holly, star of Bethlehem, Christmas rose and rhubarb.
Keep your pet away from the water in tree stands which may contain fertilizers that can upset a pet’s stomach. The pine sap mixed with water makes a poisonous drink for your pet. Avoid sugar and aspirin additives in the water as well. Placing a physical barrier such as a tree skirt around your tree is a preventative measure that can be taken. The smell of a live or artificial tree may cause your pet to urine-mark it. It may help to bring the tree into an isolated indoor room for a day or so, so that it smells more like “home.”
Decorations and lights
Ribbons and tinsel can be perceived by pets as toys, or prey, and if swallowed, can catch in the gastrointestinal tract stimulating an accordion-like folding of the intestines which is a life-threatening condition. Puppies and kittens are especially tempted to chew on electrical cords which can cause mouth burns or fatal shock. Secure christmas trees to a wall or ceiling hook with sturdy fishing line. This will help prevent the tree from toppling over should your pet jump on it or accidentally knock it over. If you have holiday lights, be sure they don’t hang so low that your pet could become entangled in them. Remember to unplug the lights when you’re not home to supervise your pet.
Shiny glass ornaments on Christmas trees can be irresistible toys for cats. Please attach ornaments high on the tree and fasten them securely. Smaller ornaments can be enticing to eat and may cause obstructions which are only relieved by surgery. Also pick up any ornament hooks, tinsel, or ribbon that fall on the floor. Your pet could experience serious injuries if it ingests any of these items.
Holiday Hustle and Bustle
Unusual feeding and sleeping patterns, visitors and other distractions can cause stress. Maintain as much of your pet’s regular routine and feeding schedule as possible. Watch out for doors left open, and make sure pets have collars and tags on in case of escape. Provide a special quiet place with a blanket and fresh water for your pet to retreat to when the festivities get too stressful.
The holiday season is a wonderful, beautiful season. With a little precaution, pet hazards can be avoided and the holidays can be thoroughly enjoyed. If at any time you suspect your pet has ingested a harmful substance, call your veterinarian immediately.