The holidays can pose many dangers to cats and dogs but with a little caution, these dangers can be minimized and our furry family members can have a safe and joyous holiday season too. If you suspect your pet has come into contact with or been exposed to something dangerous, you can call the National Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435, or the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-800-213-6680 for assistance.
Poinsettias, lilies, holly and mistletoe: These plants are poisonous for both cats and dogs, and they should be kept out of the reach of all animals. Symptoms of poisoning include excessive drooling, lethargy, gastrointestinal irritation, ataxia (walking as though drunk), seizures, and death. Of all of the plants listed here, lilies are the most toxic. If you suspect your pet has been poisoned by one of these plants, seek veterinary care immediately.
String lights: String lights can pose a choking and electrocution hazard to cats and dogs. Never allow an animal to chew on them or play in them. Keep baby gates around your tree if your dog is attracted to them. For cats, it may be best to keep them out of the room that contains the tree during times you cannot supervise them.
Tinsel: Tinsel is especially attractive to your pets because it is shiny and attention-grabbing. The problem is that tinsel can cause serious injury if ingested. Garlands made of fabric are an easy, safer alternative. If you must use tinsel, make sure it is out of reach and secured in place where it cannot fall down.
Gift Wrap Ribbon: Ribbon poses dangers to both dogs and cats as it can be ingested or otherwise get tangled up on the animal and possibly injure them. Always keep a close eye on an animal near ribbon and keep ribbon-wrapped items out of reach when supervision is not possible. If you must use a ribbon to play with a cat (as cats love stringy items), make sure it is made of durable material that won’t tear in their teeth or break easily. Never let a dog or cat chew on ribbon.
Nutmeg and Sage: Holiday treats containing nutmeg and sage can pose serious dangers to all animals if ingested. Symptoms include tremors, seizures, ataxia, excessive drooling and vomiting.
Cooked bones: Leftover bones from meals can splinter and present choking hazards and injury to the stomach and intestinal tract. Bones from a pet store prepared especially for pets are a much safer option. If you must share your food, always choose pieces of meat that are free from both bone and any kind of seasoning.
Chocolate and dough: As much as bread and cookie dough is delicious, it can do more harm than good for your pet. Many people know that chocolate is bad for dogs, but dough (both cooked and uncooked) is also bad for dogs and cats. The dough can expand inside a pet's stomach, causing symptoms ranging from mild discomfort to severe bloating, bowel obstruction and even rupture. Warning symptoms include lethargy, nausea, drooling, ataxia and acting as though in pain. The larger the amount of dough ingested, the more serious the emergency. Seek veterinary care immediately if you suspect your pet has eaten any dough.
Garlic, chives and onions: Many cats will avoid these foods as they are much more discerning eaters, but these shouldn't be given to either cats or dogs. These foods contain sulfides, which can cause serious damage to the animal’s red blood cells and gastrointestinal tract. Cooking does not reduce the amount of sulfides in these foods. Symptoms include oral irritation, excessive drooling, acting as though in pain, weakness, lethargy, increased breathing and respiratory rates and collapse. Poisoning of this nature can have a delayed onset, making symptoms not obvious until several days later. As mentioned above, seek immediate veterinary care if you suspect any poisoning.
Using a little caution can mean the difference between an emergency trip to the after-hours vet clinic and a trip to Grandma’s. May you and your fuzzy friends have a safe and happy holiday season.