NEW YORK--The holiday season is a time for family, friends and feasts, but the ASPCA® (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) wants to remind pet owners that this time of year can also pose dangers for the four-legged members of the household.
"While we are busy celebrating, we need to be aware of the popular holiday traditions that could be dangerous for our pets," said Dr. Camille DeClementi, senior toxicologist at the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center. "Many of the foods we eat and the decorations we put up - while perfect to help us get into the holiday spirit - are not always safe for our pets."
The ASPCA has the following three reminders for keeping pets safe during the holidays:
- FOOD FOR THOUGHT - 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. DeClementi also urges pet owners to be extremely careful with any alcoholic beverages. "Pets that ingest alcohol can become very sick and may fall into a coma, leading to an untimely death," she says. If baking is a yearly tradition, chocolate should be kept far away from pets, as it can cause a variety of symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, abnormal heart rate and occasionally seizures.
- DANGEROUS DECORATIONS - One of the joys of the holidays is decorating the home. However, it is important to protect pets against seemingly innocuous decorations. Candles are popular, but it is important to keep them out of reach of curious cats (and dogs) that might swat at flames, burn themselves or even knock the candle over. "It's important to keep wires, batteries and glass or plastic ornaments out of paws' reach," adds Dr. DeClementi. "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 extra appealing to cats who love sparkly, light-catching "toys" that are easy to bat around and carry in their mouths. But a nibble can lead to a swallow, which can lead to an obstructed digestive tract, severe vomiting, dehydration and possible emergency surgery.
- BOUGHS OF HOLLY - Certain festive plants can cause some serious damage if pets ingest them. "Lillies are popular holiday flowers which can cause kidney failure in cats," notes Dr. DeClementi. "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." And what about the popular poinsettia? It is a persistent holiday myth that the poinsettia plant is highly toxic to pets, when in reality, 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--also should be covered to protect pets from drinking it.