Columns: No Margins, No Limits, No Kidding!
Have A Pet Safe Christmas!
Ho! HO! Ho! And HOLD IT - until you review these unsuspected risks, spray-on snow, tinsel, toxic foods and plants, lighting, wires, batteries, rubber bands...
Nel Liquorman, Investigative Reporter
Remember that pets are attracted to the seasonal decorations so keeping your pet safe will require special care. A review of items that may be harmful (or fatal) to your pet seems in order so here are some of the hazards and solutions to help you keep the merry in your holidays without emergency trips to the vet.
One of the biggest hazards is tinsel on your Christmas tree. Both dogs and cats are attracted to the sparkly tinsel. Both have been known to eat this stuff, which will slice up their gastro-intestinal system. If it gets packed into a ball, surgery will be required. Even if it does not cause a blockage, your pet's intestinal track may lose so much blood that it could be fatal. Pretty package ribbons, while not quite as bad, can pose similar safety issues – so take care year round!
Unfortunately, many items that pets swallow will not show up on x-rays unless air is trapped along with the items. This can make diagnosis difficult and very costly – meanwhile your pet will be suffering.
Christmas Tree Safety:
A Christmas tree standing in chemical-free water may seem safe enough but the sap mixes with the water and may be more toxic than the chemicals used to keep the tree fresh. Bacteria from the standing water or fertilizers that were used while the tree was in the ground can cause stomach upset or worse. Spray-on snow adds more chemical risks – so be aware!
Trees must be secured so that they can’t fall on the pet. Electric cords may be chewed by your pet, but the risk becomes greater when the wires are attached to dazzling lights. When you go out, unplug the lights.
Christmas Ornaments and Decorative Items:
Hooks used to hang the ornaments can also be swallowed by a curious pet and a hook dropped into carpet could be stepped on and driven into your pet’s paw – or your own. Painted wooden ornaments and toys may contain lead, especially if these items are from China. Hang the wooden ornaments too high for the pet to reach if he has access to the tree area.
Small glass ornaments may be mistaken for a ball, and if your dog can get his mouth around it, it can get broken, cutting his mouth or being ingested which can cause severe damage to the gastro-intestinal tract. And of course, a broken ornament on the floor is – well, walking on glass!
Almost all live Christmas flowers and plants are toxic. Lilies can cause kidney failure if ingested by pets, while poinsettias, mistletoe, Christmas cactus, and holly can inflict a wide range of discomfort, such as irritation to the mouth, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea. If that is not enough, now many florists use toxic cocoa mulch in potted plants. While it is deadly to cats if ingested, dogs may not fair a lot better.
Much like small children, pets are curious, and candles present a real danger. Keep them well out of reach, and remember that any flame gives off some carbon monoxide, so don’t get carried away with candles when your windows are tightly closed in the winter.
Christmas Foods Safety:
Foods of the season may be more dangerous that you think, even in small portions. Keep pets away from chocolate, alcoholic drinks, raisins, and onions (or dips, dressings, etc., that contain onions). Onions are not the only hazard of holiday food table scraps. Garlic, fatty skin from the turkey, many spices, and bones may do more than just sicken your pet. And, never give your pet any yeast dough when you are baking. The dough can expand (rise) and have potentially fatal results. Coffee, coffee grounds, and coffee beans can also be harmful.
We all overeat during the holiday feasts and it makes us regret it after a sumptuous meal. You should keep in mind that our stomach is vertical whereas our pets’ bellies are suspended like a hammock. We can pass gas easier but dog, especially large breeds, can die from gastric torsion when an over-full stomach bloats up and twists.
Non-seasonal items like plastic wrap and plastic bags can be harmful to your pet for a variety of reasons. If they contain tasty food they may be ingested. If you use liquid potpourris to fragrance your home, keep them out of reach of visiting pets and children. Walking through spilled liquid from these products and then licking paws result in severe oral, dermal and ocular damage, especially for a cat. Rubber bands pose a choking hazard and contain a chemical that especially attracts cats.
Other Holiday Season Risks:
While you are enjoying the wonders of winter, don’t forget that your pet could suffer hypothermia. Also, road salts and chemicals on their paws needs washing off. Not only can they irritate the pads and surrounding skin, but they should not be licked off for obvious reasons.
Christmas toys and gifts often come with batteries which contain corrosives. If a pet chews on a battery, it can result in ulcers to the mouth, tongue and entire gastro-intestinal tract. During the hustles, bustles, and stresses of the season, take care not to leave your medications exposed. An accidentally dropped pill could be fatal to your pet, so take time to pay attention to the little details of everyday living.
Keep your veterinarian, local emergency veterinary service, and the ASPCA Animal Poison Control center (1-888-426-4435) phone numbers handy. There is a fee so you will need a credit card when calling the poison control number. Another year-round precaution: print this time-saving form which could save your pet’s life – TAKE IT TO THE VET CHECKLIST
By now you must be wondering how you have managed to keep your pet alive so far. However, reviewing all the things that I mentioned will make you so aware that your pet should be safe enough. Just remember to give your dog or cat some extra attention so he does not feel neglected while everyone is making merry during this wonderful season, and make it the safest one ever for you and your pet!
My personal motto when it comes to Christmas is “THE ONLY THINGS OF VALUE IN THIS HOUSE ARE THE PETS”!