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Animal Tales: How to keep your pets from harm during holidays

Question: Could you tell me what holiday themed plants and items are harmful to pets?

Answer: Over the river and through the woods to celebrate the upcoming holiday season we go. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, the holiday season is full of friends, family, fun and festivities. Most people include their pets in some form of holiday celebrations, which is fantastic. However, holiday food, plants and decorations can pose serious dangers to your companion animals. Here are a few things to know.

Foods: Keep your pet’s regular diet during the holiday season. A small piece of cooked meat or spoon full of mashed potato shouldn’t do much harm, but undercooked meat, bones, certain spices/herbs and chocolate can pose serious threats to your pet’s health.

If you want to provide your companion animals with a special holiday treat, visit your local pet supply store and purchase a species specific treat or toy for your pet to enjoy during the holidays.

Alcohol: Alcohol can be quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and can cause dangerous drops in blood sugar and blood pressure. Many holiday desserts and candies contain alcohol. Make sure you keep these items and alcoholic beverages out of reach of animals.

Christmas tree: First and foremost, make sure your Christmas tree is securely anchored: I have a vivid childhood memory of my family cats running up our tree one year and bringing it crashing to the ground! When decorating your tree, if possible stay away from tinsel. Because of its stringy shape and reflective nature, tinsel is attractive to animals, especially cats. While not toxic, if ingested tinsel can get caught in your animal’s intestines and become very dangerous, causing serious injury to your pets. If this happens, contact your veterinarian immediately. If you have glass, aluminum or other fragile ornaments for your tree, consider hanging those on the higher branches of your tree. This will help deter your pets from chewing on them, possibly breaking pieces off and cutting their mouth or swallowing them.

Holiday plants: Poinsettias, mistletoe, holly, amaryllis and lilies are just a few of the holiday themed plants that can be poisonous to your pets. If ingested by your pet, many holiday plants can cause vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, difficulty breathing and erratic behavior. Keep these plants far away from your companion animal. If your pet does ingest any holiday plants (or their berries) contact your veterinarian or an emergency veterinary clinic in your area immediately.

Holiday lights and candles: Twinkling lights and candles can be attractive to curious pets. Keep candles, hot wax and liquid potpourri out of reach. Some “bubble type” lights and snow globes may contain poisonous chemicals and if chewed on or swallowed by your pet can pose a danger. Do you have a pet that likes to chew? Keep an eye on holiday lights to make sure your pet stays clear.

Wishing you and your two- and four-legged family a happy, healthy and humane holiday season!

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