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Keeping Your Pets Safe for the Holidays

We love the holidays for celebrating some of life’s happiest moments and making memories with loved ones. Dogs and cats love the holidays too, especially when their owners and guests share extra time and pet treats with them. But all the interesting foods and decorations in our homes during the holidays can be irresistible to pets, sometimes landing them in emergency pet hospitals after tasting or eating them.

“Every year during the holidays, calls to Pet Poison Helpline increase substantially,” said Ahna Brutlag, DVM, MS, DABT, DABVT and associate director of veterinary services at Pet Poison Helpline. “Certain foods and items that bring holiday cheer to our homes can have the opposite effect on pets when ingested, making them very sick.”

Armed with knowledge, pet owners can keep their beloved best friends out of harm’s way this holiday season. To inform pet owners, and also to debunk some age-old myths, the veterinarians and toxicology experts at Pet Poison Helpline offer these tips for pet owners.

Human Eats and Drinks: Not for Pets

Some holiday foods we hold dear can be quite dangerous to pets, such chocolate and cocoa, candy and sugarless gum that contain xylitol, yeast bread dough, leftover fatty meat scraps, and fruit cakes with raisins and currants. The fruitcake threat can be compounded if the cake is soaked in rum or another alcohol. Alcohol poisoning in pets can result in a dangerous drop in blood sugar, blood pressure and body temperature, potentially leading to seizures and respiratory failure. So, while entertaining this holiday season, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask guests to refrain from sharing human food and drinks with pets.

Seasonal Holiday Plants: Myths Debunked

Herein lie the myths. Over the years, the relative toxicity of poinsettias has been exaggerated. In reality, if ingested by a dog or cat, the sticky white sap usually causes only minor mouth or stomach irritation. Likewise, Christmas cactus can cause vomiting and diarrhea, and the spiny leaves of the Christmas or English holly can cause irritation and damage to pets’ stomachs and intestines. While serious complications aren’t likely with holiday plants, it’s still best to keep them out of pets’ reach.

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