A must-read list of holiday hazards and household dangers to steer your pets clear of during the holiday season.
By NorCalVet Emergency + Specialty Hospital
The holidays can be great fun for both you and your pet, but holiday hazards can cause illness or injury and ruin the festivities for everyone – especially your pet. There are a number of problems that might happen at any time of year, but many occur more commonly from late October through the new year, and it pays to be on special alert.
When it comes to festive fare, there are many holiday hazards for pets that are toxic to animals. So while you’re enjoying all of the wonderful selections on your holiday table, these are a few of the most dangerous items to keep far away from your four-legged family members:
- Macadamia nuts: Toxic to dogs.
- Grapes and Raisins: Toxic to dogs (watch out for that fruitcake, most contain raisins).
- Rhubarb: Toxic (in large quantities) to dogs, cats, (and people). While all parts of the plant contain oxalate crystals, they are present in large quantities in the leaves (which is why we only eat the stalks). Eating large amounts of the leaves can cause oral pain, stomach upset, or even kidney failure. True problems are not common in pets, because it takes such a large quantity (it’s a bigger problem in livestock that chronically graze on the leaves).
- Chocolate: Toxic to dogs, as you’ve probably heard. The actual toxicity of chocolate depends on several factors – the color of the chocolate (darker chocolate has more caffeine, white chocolate has almost none), the amount eaten, the size of the dog, and that dog’s individual sensitivity to this form of caffeine. Because of the high caffeine content, baker’s chocolate and chocolate-covered espresso beans are particularly dangerous. There seems to be a lot of chocolate around in December, and then it comes back at Valentine’s Day (and then again at Easter). If your dog gets into the chocolate, please give us a call.
- Bread Dough: Very dangerous! Everyone loves bread, and baked bread is not toxic. Unbaked bread dough, though, can be fatal. The increased temperature inside the dog makes the yeast rise rapidly, which is a physical problem for the dog’s stomach. More dangerous than this, though, is the by-product of yeast metabolism (all you beer drinkers know where this is going): alcohol. Quick treatment of dogs that eat unbaked dough is essential!
- Table Scraps: Can cause pancreatitis in general. Even if they beg, please don’t give your pets table scraps.
Food is not the only increased hazard at holiday time. There are other serious dangers hiding in your home, and you need to be on guard.
Kittens, cats and puppies can have a tendency to chew on electrical wiring, and this can be very bad news for them, and for their families. And we seem to have more electrical cords on the floor at holiday time than any other time (and there is something about the taste and smell of the plastic on these cords, being stored with other Christmas items in the attic all year). Hiding the wires is not only more attractive, but safer, too…
Chewing through a live electrical wire frequently results in burns to the lips, tongue, and palate, and can cause tooth loss. More importantly, the electrical current can cause a chain reaction in the lungs, ending in a large amount of water in the lungs. This is pulmonary edema, similar to what happens with severe heart disease, and this can be fatal.
What to do if your pet is electrocuted: If you find your pet being electrocuted, don’t touch it! Your primary goal is to shut off the electrical current, generally by unplugging the wire. Take extra care to not get shocked yourself. And then, please, bring your pet straight in, even if they appear to be fine.
But you won’t always find your kitten attached to an electrical cord, actively being shocked. Most of the time, they bite through the cord, receive the nasty shock, and are able to release the cord and get away.
Signs to watch out for: Signs your pet may have had an encounter with an electric cord include drooling, not willing to eat or drink, hiding, and finding urine or feces near an electrical cord. Again, if you see any of these signs, please bring your pet straight in and let us have a look. Much better to be safe than sorry.
Electrical cords are indeed very dangerous, not only from an electrocution standpoint, but as a fire hazard. There are a lot of other fire hazards around the holidays, and some of them might even involve your furry children.
Clumsy Cats: Cats inadvertently knock things over on counters, and those things might include lighted candles, or other objects that come in contact with those flames. Fortunately, cats themselves rarely seem to catch fire, but it’s still bad news when the whole house is ablaze.
The Power of the Tail: If you have a large dog, you don’t need me to tell you about the power contained in that tail, or how easily candles or other objects might be knocked from a low table. And that’s not even mentioning what happens when a couple of roughhousing dogs run into the furniture.
Garland and Tinsel look like string, and many cats and kittens have a hard time resisting the temptation. Eating garland can cause major problems in the intestinal tract, frequently requiring emergency surgery.
Ornaments also create large problems, when they are found in the stomach or intestinal tracts of dogs. And glass ornaments don’t always go down intact…
And let’s not forget about the family. Having large numbers of family and friends visiting might sound ideal to you, but this can be a real source of stress for pets. If your pets get anxious when large numbers of people ring the bell, or fill the dining room (and living room, and kitchen), do them a favor and keep them confined to the back of the house. Maybe disconnect the doorbell…
A front door that opens and closes a lot can be an invitation to an escape – please make sure your pets have good identification, and that your contact information is up-to-date with your microchip company.
Relax, and Enjoy Your Holiday!
Keeping the possible hazards of the holidays in mind when you plan your holiday makes it much safer for you and your pets, and much more fun than spending time at the ER.