Pet-Safety Tips for The Holidays

Pet safety is important all year round, but you need to be especially wary at holiday time, when cats see interesting objects (plants, tinsel) they want to explore. Here, from the Pet Poison Helpline, are some things you should keep away from your pets.

When decorating for the season, consider your pets. Holiday decorations such as snow globes or bubble lights may contain poisonous chemicals. If your pet chews on them the liquid inside could be could be dangerous to their health.

Skip the tinsel. Your cat may think of it as an interesting toy, but ingesting it can severely damage a pet’s intestinal tract. That means your pet is at high risk of intestinal rupture or expensive abdominal surgery. What looks like a shiny toy to your cat can prove deadly if ingested. Tinsel does not pose a poisoning risk but can cause severe damage to a cat’s intestinal tract if swallowed. Ultimately, cats run the risk of severe injury to, or rupture of their intestines and treatment involves expensive abdominal surgery.

Keep plants out of reach. The Pet Poison Helpline experts say that while poinsettia plants are widely thought to be very poisonous, they are only mildly toxic. Other plants are far more dangerous: “Lilies, including tiger, Asiatic, stargazer, Easter and day lilies, are the most dangerous plants for cats,” Dr. Ahna Brutlag, assistant director of Pet Poison Helpline, says in material released by the organization. “The ingestion of one to two leaves or flower petals is enough to cause sudden kidney failure in cats.” Holly berries and mistletoe can also be toxic, causing intestinal upset and heart arrhythmias.

Watch out for alcohol. A pet who accidentally ingests alcohol can suffer dangerous drops in blood-sugar and blood-pressure levels, as well as a drop in body temperature. Other risks include seizure and respiratory failure, the pet-poison experts say. Besides alcoholic beverages, foods containing alcohol and unbaked, yeast-containing dough can be hazardous. They can cause alcohol poisoning, vomiting, disorientation and stomach bloat, according to the Pet Poison Helpline experts.

Foods to beware of. Anything containing grapes, raisins and currants (as in fruitcake) can lead to kidney failure in dogs.

Chocolate and cocoa, the pet-poison experts say, contain the chemical theobromine, which is highly toxic for dogs and cats. Ingesting a small amount can cause vomiting and diarrhea, but eating large amounts can lead to seizures and heart arrhythmias.

Many sugarless gums and candies contain xylitol, a sweetener which is toxic to dogs. It causes a life-threatening drop in blood sugar and liver failure.

Other dangerous foods, the Pet Poison Helpline experts say, include fatty meat scraps. They can lead to  severe inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) as well as abdominal pain, vomiting and bloody diarrhea.

Imported Snow Globes. Recently, according to the Pet Poison Helpline experts, imported snow globes were found to contain antifreeze (ethylene glycol.) Just one teaspoon ingested by a cat, or one tablespoon ingested by a dog, can kill the animal. Signs of early poisoning include acting drunk or uncoordinated, excessive thirst, and lethargy. While signs may seem to improve after eight to twelve hours, internal damage is actually worsening, the experts say, and crystals develop in the kidneys, leading to acute kidney failure. The Pet Poison Helpline stresses that immediate treatment with an antidote is “vital.”

And methylene chloride, the chemical in bubble lights, can result in depression, aspiration pneumonia and irritation to the eyes, skin and gastrointestinal tract, according to the Pet Poison Helpline.

Scented oils. Although a simmer pot can fill your house with wonderful holiday smells, scented oils can cause serious harm to your cat. Just a few licks, the experts say, can lead to severe chemical burns in the mouth, fever, difficulty breathing, and tremors. Dogs aren’t as sensitive, but it’s still better, the Pet Poison Helpine experts say, to play it safe. Use a non-toxic candle placed where your pets can’t reach it.

If you need immediate help with your pet, contact your nearest 24-hour animal hospital. You can also call the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-800-213-6680. To visit their website, click here.



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