The holidays are a sparkly, joyful time but they can also be a little dangerous if you, for instance, only weigh 30 pounds, walk around naked all the time and attempt to eat anything remotely interesting that crosses your path. No, we don’t mean toddlers with aversions to clothes (although, you should be careful of those, too) we mean your pets. You should always be careful about the foods you feed your animals and the trinkets they can get into, but the holidays bring about some unique and heightened hazards that you’re going to want to be hyper aware of.
You’ve probably heard that the leaves of poinsettias are poisonous if ingested. While that “fact” is more of an exaggeration, poinsettias still aren’t great for your pets to eat. The milky sap inside the stem can be irritating to their stomachs, so to save them that discomfort, keep poinsettias away from your furry friends.
A plant that’s a little more dangerous is mistletoe. The kissing plant can cause vomiting and diarrhea in cats and dogs. In large amounts, it can cause low blood pressure and low heart rate which can be deadly. How ironic that the plant you kiss under can also kill you.
Obviously, little pieces of broken glass or plastic are harmful to your pet and can pose a choking hazard or even risk perforating the digestive system if eaten. Around the holidays, you might need to be even more vigilant of things that could fracture into small or sharp pieces because lots of decorations are highly breakable. Baubles fall off Christmas trees all the time (especially when they have cats and dogs pawing at them) and those things are delicate.
String lights and tinsel
Cats’ two favourite things are shiny objects and anything string-like. Christmas lights and tinsel are both of those things and they are both pose a major threat. With lights, you need to worry about electrocution and burns if they get at the wires. Tinsel is easily eaten by either cats or dogs and can actually act as a tiny blade inside your pet’s mouth and digestive tract. If at any point you see tinsel coming out of your pet’s rear end, DON’T PULL IT. Seek emergency veterinary help.
Again, toys are always a hazard but on Christmas morning when your kids have unwrapped all their presents and the floor is littered with opened packaging, toy pieces and ripped up wrapping paper, you need to be extra careful about what your pets have access to. Nobody wants to make a trip to the emergency room on Christmas morning for an ingested Lego man.
Always use caution and make sure you know what you’re doing when you offer your pet human food. During the holidays, be particularly careful of turkey bones because if ingested, they can break in the digestive tract and perforate your pet’s insides.
And don’t think about using the dog as a way to get rid of that nasty fruitcake you don’t want to eat yourself. Raisins — which are often found in fruitcake — can be deadly to both cats and dogs. There is no minimum safe ingestion for raisins and even a few can cause kidney failure. Maybe just stick to their normal dog food.
There’s typically more alcohol around during the holidays, but your pets don’t get the same joy out of it as you do. In fact, they can barely metabolize it and it can really harm them. Within an hour of consumption, pets will show symptoms of being drunk — staggering, looking drowsy — and their reactions can be so extreme that their brains forget to tell the body to breath. They can even feel those effects if they eat vomit from someone who was drunk (sorry for the mental image, but pets do that sometimes). So be extra careful if you’re planning a wild New Year’s Eve party.
Winter means a lot more hazards too. Antifreeze is enticing to pets and other animals because it smells and tastes sweet. Except it’s poisonous! Prevention is key here because it takes less than a teaspoon to potentially cause death. If ingested, pets will seem drunk, uncoordinated or start vomiting but could eventually fall into a coma and suffer from kidney failure. If you think your pet has ingested antifreeze, they’re going to need professional emergency medical attention.
Yes, they have built-in fur coats, but pets feel cold just like humans do. Even arctic breeds might be in danger of hypothermia or frostbite if they aren’t indoctrinated to the cold or stay outside too long. Be careful about how long you let your pets play in the snow and take cues from them to find out how they’re feeling. A husky with frostbite seems ironic, but it can happen.