‘Tis the Season to be Careful – Holiday Pet Hazards to Avoid

‘Tis the Season to be Careful – Holiday Pet Hazards to Avoid

The holidays are a time when there will be more temptation, enticing smells and novel tastes to explore in our homes. Watch out for unusual items around the house and under the tree that might attract your pet’s interest. The key is awareness – make sure all members of the family and any guests know what is safe for your pet so that the holidays are a safe and happy time for everyone. 

Pet owners who think their dog or cat has ingested something harmful or has been injured should immediately call their family veterinarian or bring their pet to an emergency hospital.  

Boundary Bay Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Hospital is open 24/7, 365 days a year – if your pet is experiencing a life-threatening emergency, please bring them directly to our hospital, no referral is required. For more information: https://bbvsh.com/services/24-hour-emergency-vet/ 

1. Hazardous foods and snacks. Every year, vets see a dramatic increase in chocolate poisonings during the holidays. Here is a list of foods pets should not ingest: 

    • Chocolate – There is a chemical in chocolate called theobromine. It triggers vomiting, diarrhoea, hyperactivity, tremors, seizures, problems with the heart, and can be fatal. The darker the chocolate, the more severe the effect.
    • Mince pies & Christmas puddings – Grapes, currants, sultanas, and raisins are all poisonous for dogs. For dogs, even the smallest amount of Christmas pudding can cause severe kidney failure. It is unknown if these foods also pose a risk to cats, but it is advisable to avoid.
    • Macadamia nuts – These nuts are often found in biscuits and used as snacks at Christmas time. They can bring on weakness, vomiting, tremors and hyperthermia in dogs.
    • Gravy, stuffing & sausage – It is best not to feed your pet foods like gravy, stuffing or sausage, since they often contain onions, garlic or chives, which are toxic to dogs and can cause stomach upset.
    • Cheese – An occasional treat of cheese is acceptable, but be aware that some types, such as blue cheese, can produce toxins that cause rapid onset convulsions in dogs.
    • Alcohol – Alcohol can cause serious problems for pets, including vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, and tremors. It can lead to low blood sugar and coma in severe cases. Avoid leaving drinks around or food containing alcohol, such as chocolate liqueurs.
    • Candy – Candy, chewing gum and some cakes can contain sugar substitutes such as xylitol. Xylitol can induce the release of insulin in dogs, resulting in low blood sugar and even liver damage. Although other artificial sweeteners don’t have such severe effects, they may cause gastrointestinal discomfort or upset so it’s best to become an avid ingredient-checker and avoid giving your pet food containing artificial sweeteners.

2. Plants and flowers that are harmful. Holiday plants are a great way to brighten up a home, but can present real dangers, as many are toxic to pets. Even non-toxic plants can still cause severe gastrointestinal upset if ingested in large quantities. Plants that are harmful include:

    • Amaryllis
    • Azaleas
    • Chrysanthemums
    • Evergreens
    • Holly
    • Ivy
    • Juniper
    • Lily
    • Mistletoe
    • Poinsettias – cause irritation to the mouth and stomach and result in vomiting, but they are generally considered low in toxicity.
    • Christmas trees – Sharp needles can cause internal damage if swallowed. Cats and kittens may also try to climb the tree. It is advisable to secure the base of the tree to reduce the chance of it falling over. And make sure dogs and cats do not drink any water, if you have a live Christmas tree. Christmas tree water, with or without additives, can cause stomach upset in dogs and cats.

3. Decorations and ornaments. Colourful, glittery, and tempting, these items are dangerous if ingested:

    • Tinsel and ribbon – Cats love the feel of chewing tinsel and ribbons. However, if ingested, these decorative items can wrap around the base of a feline’s tongue and become caught in their intestines causing an intestinal blockage leading to an emergency surgery.
    • Wrapping paper and presents – Keep out of reach of pets and avoid using ribbons for wrapping. If dogs eat a lot of wrapping paper, it can cause an obstruction in the stomach. Cats may want to play with ribbon but if ingested it can cause a blockage or twisted intestine and will likely need surgical attention.
    • Candles – Keep away from pets and make sure any lit candles are always supervised. Ingestion can cause choking. And there is also a fire risk if your pet knocks a candle over.
    • Batteries – Store batteries away from pets and make sure toys using batteries are stored away when not in use. Batteries can cause serious internal damage if chewed or swallowed by pets. Alkaline batteries leak a caustic substance that can burn your pet’s mouth, esophagus, or stomach.
    • String lights or fairy lights – String lights can cause burns or electrocution if chewed. This is a particular risk to cats. There is also risk of strangulation or injury if your pet becomes entangled in the lights. Trailing wires from lights could also look like an invitation to a tug-of-war game.
    • Snow Globes – Imported versions can contain antifreeze – as little as one tablespoon can be fatal for a cat.
    • Salt dough ornaments – The mix of flour and salt with water can cause a potentially fatal salt toxicosis.

4. Other winter hazards:

    • Anti-freeze and ice melt – Anti-freeze with the chemical ethylene glycol can be deadly to animals. Rock salt can cause a chain reaction of dangers. If a pet walks on it, it can irritate paw pads, causing pets to lick or swallow the rock salt, which can result in agitation and vomiting. Look for ice melts with a propylene glycol base for a relatively pet-safe way to melt ice.
    • Winter Sweaters & coats – Coats and sweaters can help keep a pet’s temperature from rapidly dropping in outside conditions. All coats and pet costumes should allow pets to move freely, breathe easily and bark or meow. There should be no dangling parts for pets to tear off and swallow. If your pet doesn’t enjoy dressing up, it’s best to let them be themselves over the holidays.

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