holiday cat and dog
Pets

Keep Your Dogs and Cats Safe From Holiday Hazards

This holiday season, while you’re busy decorating, cooking, and wrapping gifts, remember to watch out for holiday temptations for your pets. FDA veterinarian Carmela Stamper tells how to keep your animals safe.

Stocking Stuffers and Pet Treats

If your dog received a stocking full of pet treats, make sure he doesn’t gobble them all up at once. According to Stamper, if he eats the treats whole, or eats too many at once, he may not be able to digest them. Unchewed pet treats can get stuck in the trachea (windpipe) or gastrointestinal tract (esophagus, stomach, and intestines), particularly in small dogs.

If your dog is in obvious distress from eating too much too fast, says Stamper, contact your vet immediately. Some telltale signs are drooling, choking, or vomiting.

Take note of timing. If a bone or chew toy lodges in your dog’s stomach or intestines, the symptoms might not be immediate. Hours to days later, he may vomit and have diarrhea, be less active, not want to eat, and have stomach pain. If the blockage stays there too long, your dog may become very ill. The worst-case scenario is when a hole develops at the blockage site, causing a life-threatening infection.

“When in doubt, contact your veterinarian, who may need to take x-rays or use an endoscope to see what and where the problem is,” Stamper says. Your dog may even need surgery to remove blockages in the intestines.

Tinsel and Ribbons

When decorating your tree and wrapping or unwrapping gifts, keep a close eye on where you leave your leftover tinsel, string, and ribbons.

“Your cat may find these decorations irresistible because they look like easy-to-catch, sparkly, and wiggly prey,” Stamper says. In fact, they can cause serious stomach and intestinal damage.

Symptoms may take a few hours or several days to appear, and include vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, and decreased activity. Play it safe by keeping tinsel off the tree and collecting all ribbons and strings after gifts are opened.

Holiday Plants

If you have holiday plants such as poinsettias, holly, or mistletoe around, take care. When you display (or dispose of) these plants, your cat may decide they’re good to eat, Stamper says.

Poinsettias, for example have a milky white, latex sap that can irritate your animal’s mouth and stomach and may cause vomiting and diarrhea. “If your cat has snacked on poinsettia leaves, you can help him by picking up his food and water dishes for a couple of hours to let his stomach settle,” Stamper advises.

The National Animal Poison Control Center (NAPCC) states that the major toxic chemicals in mistletoe are lectins and phoratoxins. These chemicals affect the heart, causing low blood pressure and slowed heart rate.

“Fortunately for your cat, severe mistletoe toxicity is uncommon and usually occurs only if your pet eats a large amount,” Stamper explains. Symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea, difficulty breathing, slowed heart rate, low blood pressure, and odd behavior.