Beware these 17 holiday pet dangers

It’s a festive time of year, no doubt. But the hubbub of the season might leave you so frazzled that you forget to think about the potential dangers your pet faces this time of year.

Here are 17 of the most potentially harmful holiday traditions to protect your pet from:

  • Tinsel

It’s so attractive to your pets, especially cats that think it’s a shiny new toy. But tinsel can be very dangerous if your pet swallows it because it can get bunched up and twisted in your pet’s intestines. This could result in emergency surgery.

  • Christmas Trees and Ornaments

Glass Christmas tree ornaments don’t seem like a chew toy to you and me, but your dog may think otherwise. And your cat may want to bat one around. Broken glass in your pet’s mouth, stomach or paws is definitely an emergency.

Your tree itself can be a danger to your pet if it isn’t secured properly. And if you have a live tree, don’t put fertilizer in the water in case your pet drinks it. It isn’t a good idea to let your pet drink the stagnant tree water. There’s lots of bacteria floating around in it.

  • Snow globes

You’ll be surprised to hear that some snow globes, particularly imported ones, contain antifreeze. Antifreeze is deadly to your pet if they swallow it. So keep those in a safe place where they can’t be knocked over and broken.

  • Lights

A new puppy or kitten, or even an older pet that likes to chew, will be attracted to the electrical chords lying on the ground. Chewing one can lead to electric shock, burns in the mouth, tongue lacerations and even death. Be sure to regularly check holiday lights for chewing, and unplug them when you’re not home.

  • Candles

Be sure to place them out of the way of a climbing cat or a jumping dog. Not only can your pet get burned, an overturned candle can burn your house down. And a trail of hot wax can burn the pads on paws.

  • Ribbon

There isn’t a cuter holiday photo than your dog or cat with a big bow tied around its neck…but this is a bad idea. Ribbons and bows are choking hazards and can cause the same problems as tinsel. If your pet decides to chew on one, it can twist and bunch up in the intestines.

After opening your gifts, get rid of the ribbon. In fact, have a garbage bag nearby during the gift opening frenzy so that you can throw away all the choking hazards that are so appealing to your pet.

  • Chocolate

Most people are aware of the dangers of a dog eating chocolate. A small amount may only result in some vomiting and diarrhea. But a lot of chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, can kill your dog. This is a bigger problem for dogs than cats. Because cats aren’t attracted to sweets, they aren’t likely to consume enough to kill them.

So keep that Hanukah gelt out of reach!  And don’t forget the cookies and cakes that have chocolate in them.

  • Fat trimmings

If you have relatives like mine, they may think they’re being nice by feeding your pet the turkey skin they left on their plate. Uh-uh! Fat can cause pancreatitis in your pet, a painful and debilitating condition. Tell your guests you appreciate the love they want to show your pet, but table food is a no-no in your house. Keep your pet on their regular diet and maintain their regular routine as much as possible during this hectic time of year.

  • Bones

It seems natural to give your dog a nice juicy bone to chew on but this is a dangerous treat. Bones can splinter and cause perforations and obstructions of the digestive system, as well as choking.

  • Some nuts (other than your crazy relatives)

Almonds, walnuts and pistachios are not necessarily deadly but they can cause stomach upset. They can also cause an obstruction of the throat or intestinal tract. Macadamia nuts, however, are toxic and can cause seizures and death. Don’t forget plenty of holiday cookies are chock full of nuts. So it’s not just the little dish on your coffee table you need to worry about.

  • Grapes, raisins and currants

You may not think of these fruits as a big part of your holiday menu but everyone gets a fruitcake, don’t they? Grapes, raisins and currants can result in kidney failure in your pet. So if that fruitcake is consumed by your pet, it can be very dangerous. Just one more reason to re-gift it.

  • Xylitol

This is an artificial sweetener found in sugar free cookies, cakes, candy and chewing gum. It’s toxic to dogs, and can result in a life-threatening drop in blood sugar and liver failure.

  • Holly, mistletoe and lilies

Although poinsettias get a bad rap, it’s really holly, mistletoe and lilies you need to keep away from you pets. Lilies are particularly deadly to cats. Even one leaf or flower petal can result in sudden kidney failure.

Holly and mistletoe are very toxic to both dogs and cats. Eating these holiday plants can result in severe vomiting and diarrhea, difficulty breathing, heart arrhythmia and death.

  • Alcohol

I’d like to think that none of your guests would be foolish enough to give your pet a sip of their cocktail. But sometimes pets get into things without you knowing it, like the punch bowl or someone’s cup of egg nog. And how about that rum cake? Alcohol causes a dangerous drop in blood sugar, blood pressure and body temperature. An intoxicated pet can die.

Here’s something you probably aren’t aware of…uncooked bread dough containing yeast can cause alcohol toxicity in your pet. If your pet swallows the raw dough their stomach will act like an oven, which causes the yeast to metabolize and turn into ethanol and carbon dioxide. Ethanol is alcohol and will poison your pet. And the carbon dioxide can cause stomach bloat.

  • Your house guest’s meds

You’ve probably never given thought to where your guests store their medications when they’re staying with you. But you should. If your cat or dog gets into their open suitcase or carryon bag and finds their medications, there could be deadly consequences.

  • Liquid potpourri

There’s nothing like the smell of the holidays! Understandably, people like to create that holiday atmosphere in their homes with liquid potpourri. These scented oils that are heated in a special bowl could cause burns in your pet’s mouth if they eat it. The chemicals in them can cause difficulty breathing and tremors. There is a flame involved too, so keep the liquid potpourri out of reach.

  • Batteries

Almost every toy or electronic device requires some type of battery these days. On Christmas morning, when the wrapping papers flying and the batteries are rolling, be sure your pets don’t get a hold of them. If they chew on one, the battery acid can cause burns to their mouth and esophagus. If they swallow the battery, it can be a choking hazard and can wreak havoc on their digestive system. This is a medical emergency.

If your pet gets in trouble this holiday season and swallows a potentially dangerous substance, get them to the vet immediately. If it’s Christmas day or after hours, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 or the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661. These services aren’t free but they could save your pet’s life.

With some caution and common sense, your beloved pet will get through the holiday season healthy and happy. Just be sure to keep anything potentially dangerous out of their reach…and the lid tightly secured on the garbage pail.

Have you ever experienced a holiday pet emergency? Share your experience in the comment section above and help someone prevent an unfortunate occurrence in their home.


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