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ASPCA Offers Pet Safety Tips for the Holiday Season

Many holiday traditions pose danger to four-legged family members
November 20, 2013

NEW YORK— It may be the “most wonderful time of the year,” but traditionally joyous holiday customs can present special dangers for pets, cautions the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®),

“We associate the holidays with happiness and joy, but pet owners need to be aware of customs that could pose dangers to their animals,” said Dr. Tina Wismer, medical director at the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center. “At the start of the celebrating season, take special care to pet-proof your home to avoid emergencies and tragedies”.

The ASPCA spotlights three holiday customs that pose particular dangers to pets:

  • FESTIVE FOODS – On Thanksgiving, feeding your pet a bit of turkey is okay, as long as it has been fully cooked and is bone-free. Undercooked turkey may contain salmonella bacteria and bones could splinter and get lodged in your pet’s digestive tract. Dr. Wismer urges pet owners to also be extremely careful with alcoholic beverages. “Pets that ingest alcohol can become very sick and may fall into a coma, leading to an untimely death,” she says. Chocolate too should be kept far away from pets, as it can cause symptoms including vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rate and seizures.
  • DANGEROUS DECORATIONS Decorations are a fun way to celebrate the season, but they also introduce some danger. Candles are popular, but keep them out of reach of curious cats (and dogs) that might swat at flames, burn themselves or even knock candles over. “It’s also important to keep wires, batteries and glass or plastic ornaments out of paws' reach,” adds Dr. Wismer. “A wire can deliver a potentially lethal electrical shock, and a punctured battery can cause burns to the mouth and esophagus. Shards of breakable ornaments are very sharp and could also be dangerous.” Tinsel is very appealing to cats, but a curious nibble can lead to a swallow, which can lead to an obstructed digestive tract, severe vomiting, dehydration and possible emergency surgery.
  • PESKY PLANTS – Certain festive plants can also cause some serious damage if pets ingest them. “Lilies are popular holiday flowers, but they can cause kidney failure in cats,” notes Wismer. “And festive plants like holly and mistletoe also can be dangerous and cause gastrointestinal upset or, in rare cases with mistletoe, cardiovascular problems. It’s best to use non-toxic decorations such as wood, fabric or even pinecones.” Some believe the popular poinsettia is highly toxic to pets, but that’s mostly a myth. Poinsettias cause only mild to moderate gastrointestinal irritation. Keeping it out of pets’ reach is still a good idea, but there’s no need to banish it altogether. Christmas trees are not particularly toxic, but precautions should be taken to ensure the tree is securely anchored so it doesn't tip or fall. Tree water—which may contain fertilizers and bacteria that can cause stomach upset, nausea or diarrhea if ingested— should be covered to protect pets from drinking it.

If your dog or cat accidentally ingests a potentially toxic substance this holiday season, contact your local veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 for immediate assistance.