Keeping Pets Safe during the Holidays

With the weather turning colder and the holidays around the corner, it’s a good time to review some simple precautions we can take to keep our furry friends safe through the season.  As is often the case, prevention is the best cure, so here’s a quick refresher of some common things that may be harmful to pets.

When bringing new plants into the house for decoration, be aware that some may be detrimental to your pet’s health if ingested.  Amaryllis are popular bulbs used to add some color to dreary winter days, but they can be a toxic temptation for pets.  Poinsettia is another winter favorite that can be poisonous if eaten by dogs and cats.  Holly berries and yews (often used for potted Christmas trees) are both highly toxic to animals, although they rarely will go after them.  Just be sure to place plants out of reach of your pets, and pick up fallen leaves and flowers to prevent a problem. 



While preparing holiday dishes, be aware that some ingredients are poisonous for dogs or cats.  Here’s a list of some common foods that are no-no’s for animals:  onions; garlic; grapes and raisins; candy, especially those containing chocolate; avocado; seeds and pits from fruits such as peaches, apricots, and apples; foods in the nightshade family including mushrooms, tomatoes, and potatoes; and of course, alcoholic beverages such as eggnog and mulled cider.  Also, watch out for guests leaving food and drink unattended, as dogs will take advantage of the opportunity to grab a tasty treat.

Two common chemicals found around the house during the winter are ice melt and antifreeze.  Antifreeze (ethylene glycol) can be lethal even in small amounts, but the sooner the animal gets treated, the better the chance of recovery.  And, if you are using ice melt products on areas where your animals walk freely, be sure to use a variety that is pet friendly.  Chemicals such as sodium chloride, magnesium chloride and potassium chloride can cause burns on sensitive paw pads. Other chemicals found in ice melts that are harmful to pets if absorbed are calcium carbonate, calcium magnesium acetate and urea.  Be sure to wipe your pet’s paws after an outdoor visit to minimize the problem.

So, if you have any of these items in your home, be aware of the symptoms your dog or cat might exhibit after ingesting them: signs may include drooling, stomach distress, mouth irritation, diarrhea, vomiting, and depression. If your pet is experiencing any of these symptoms, check the Pet Poison Help Line: , 855-764-7661 ($59 fee for consultation; free information on the web site), or bring your pet to an emergency vet right away. 

With awareness, good information and a few simple steps, you’ll be able to enjoy and safe and happy holiday season with your pets.