Holiday Safety Tips for Dog and Cat Owners

During times of celebration, friends and family often gather in our homes.  At these times, it is easy to overlook potential hazards to your dog or cat’s safety.  In order to prevent mishaps for your cuddly companions, it is important that you recognize these hidden dangers.
Many dogs enjoy sniffing out boxes filled with tasty treats, and even items made with leather such as clothing or sports equipment.  A lot of these items can cause an intestinal obstruction if eaten.  Even the wrapping paper can cause an intestinal obstruction if eaten, especially if it is made of foil or other indigestible material.
Most cats enjoy playing with ribbons, string, and tinsel, especially if they are shiny or moving.  Kittens and young cats tend to be more curious and playful, and appear to see these items as toys that need to be chased, pounced upon, chewed or swallowed.  While chasing and pouncing are healthy physical activities for cats and dogs, chewing and swallowing ribbons can be harmful.
Dangling cords of various types are tempting to dogs and cats that like to play with string as well as young puppies and kittens that are teething and are chewing anything and everything.  Puppies and kittens have extremely sharp teeth that can easily pierce the insulation around electric light cords or extension cords.  If a pet bites through an electric cord that is plugged in, it could result in a severe burn to the tongue or an electric shock that could damage the lungs and heart.
May people to not realize that chocolate can be a poison when eaten in large amounts, even to people.  Chocolate contains a chemical called theobromine, which has caffeine-like activities. Theobromine is used medicinally as a diuretic, heart stimulant, blood vessel dilator, and a smooth muscle relaxant.  Unsweetened or baking chocolate contains 10-20 times more theobromine than milk chocolate, but even milk chocolate can be dangerous in large enough amounts.  Clinical signs of chocolate poisoning include hyperexcitability, nervousness, vomiting, and diarrhea.  In severe overdoses, the only symptom may be sudden death.
Poinsettia sap can be irritating to the mouth and stomach of dogs and cats that chew on or eat the leaves or stems of this festive plant.  Contrary to popular belief, poinsettia is not specifically toxic, but can cause intestinal upset.  Some mistletoe species are toxic, causing liver failure or seizures, while other species are only irritating to the intestinal tract if ingested.  The fact that there are several types of mistletoe makes it difficult to predict the clinical signs of poisoning with this popular holiday trimming.  It is wise to consider mistletoe to be a hazardous substance and keep it out of reach of pets and children.  All parts of many plants belonging to the lily family are highly toxic to cats.  Because of this risk, it is best to prevent your cat or kitten from chewing on peace lilies, Christmas lilies, or other plants belonging to this family.
We all like to include our pets in holiday meals along with the rest of the family, but try to keep in mind that sudden rich diet changes are likely to upset a pet’s stomach.  Vomiting and diarrhea are common medical problems that veterinarians see during any holiday time, and especially between Thanksgiving and New Years Day.  If you feed leftovers that contain a lot of fat, the pancreas may become overworked and inflamed.  This serious condition is known as pancreatitis and usually requires hospitalization and intensive medical treatment.  Also make sure that any string or packaging that was used during the preparation of roasts or turkeys are safely disposed of in a sealed garbage that is placed out of your pet’s reach.  It’s a good idea to keep your pets out of the kitchen during the hustle and bustle of the season. The last thing you want is for them to get underfoot and get burned or otherwise injured.  By observing a few commonsense guidelines, you can share a safe and healthy celebration with your pet and give thanks for the companionship you enjoy with your four-legged family members.