There are many pet safety hazards that Christmas, New Years, Hanukkah and all the resulting celebrations and decorations bring. Aside from the over excitement and confusion caused by too many guests, there are purely physical problems: A dog can singe a tail on a candle or it can swallow tinsel and wind up with an intestinal blockage that may need surgery to repair. Hospitals often see more cases of toxicity, cases related to an animal’s biting an electrical cord or cases related to a pet eating chocolate or table scraps and developing pancreatitis.
THE TREE – The natural smell of a Christmas tree attracts pets. But remember that needles (even artificial ones) are indigestible. Keep your pet away from the tree. Artificial trees have small pieces of plastic or aluminum that can break off and be swallowed, causing intestinal blockage or irritation to the mouth. Don’t use preservatives in the stand water. They can be toxic if consumed by a thirsty pet. Lights can get very hot. Remove them from the lower branches of the tree so they won’t burn your pet. Tinsel has sharp edges that can cause cuts in the mouth. Don’t use edible ornaments or fragile, easily breakable glass decorations to trim the tree. Don’t use angel hair as it is made of spun glass. Electrical cords should be taped firmly to walls or floors. Wire ornament hooks can easily snag an ear or a tail or if swallowed can lodge in the throat or intestines. Fashioning loops of yarn, ribbon or light weight twine will help you avoid this problem.
THE FOOD– Alcohol and chocolate are toxic – keep them out of a pet’s reach. A single ounce of pure chocolate can be lethal to a small dog. Dark and unsweetened baking chocolate are most dangerous. Turkey bones left in an accessible place are almost irresistible to pets but they can lodge in an animal’s throat or block the intestinal tract. Remove leftovers from the table and don’t leave garbage where animals can get to it.
INDOOR HAZARDS– Certain holiday plants are a menace to dogs. Poinsettias irritate the stomach and eyes. Berries of the Jerusalem Cherry are toxic. Holly, Mistletoe, Amaryllis, Chrysanthemum, Rhododendron and Winter Broom as well as Christmas Berry, Cherry, Pepper and Rose can all cause problems to pets that ingest them. Liquid potpourri can cause terrible burns in an animal’s mouth should it be ingested. Space heaters, wood-burning stoves and fireplaces can cause burns if animals get too close. Candles are a great attraction for pets, but don’t leave them alone in a room with a menorah or candelabra blazing as the swish of a tail can be disastrous.
OUTDOOR HAZARDS– Even a small amount of antifreeze is extremely toxic. It has a sweet taste that attracts animals but it can cause permanent kidney damage or death. The lethal dose is 1 teaspoon per two pounds of body weight. Don’t let animals drink from puddles, and make sure to clean paws when a pet comes in from the outdoors. Don’t leave your pet alone in the car while you do last-minute shopping or errands. Carbon monoxide from an engine left running is dangerous. Rock salt can irritate a pet’s footpads. Make sure you rinse and dry them carefully. To soften them and prevent cracking, smear foot pads with a small amount of petroleum jelly.
If your pet is showing any signs of distress or you suspect your pet is seriously ill, CONTACT YOUR VETERINARIAN immediately.