Holiday Risks for Pets

Prevention is the Best Medicine

The time honored American tradition of conspicuous Christmas consumption isn’t just for humans; pets too can be guilty of dietary indiscretion. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center provides the following list of holiday hazards. There are bound to be others.

Edibles: alcoholic beverages, chocolate, coffee (grounds, beans, chocolate covered espresso beans), moldy or spoiled foods, onions, onion powder, fatty foods, salt, yeast dough.

Plants: Lilies are potentially deadly for cats, poinsettias may cause vomiting or nausea, mistletoe can cause heart problems but usually just stomach upset, and eating Holly leads to vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, and lethargy.

Christmas tree: Drinking fertilized tree water results in stomach upset. Stagnant tree water (and, hey, whose isn’t?) is a bacterial breeding ground. Consumption leads to vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea. Chewing electric cords can result in electrocution. Ribbons or tinsel can get caught in the intestines and cause obstruction. Batteries contain corrosives. If swallowed they can cause ulceration to the mouth, tongue, stomach and intestines. Glass ornaments can be chewed and swallowed. I don’t have to explain what that means.

Pets are often exposed to liquid potpourri by drinking from pots or spills or by rubbing against leaky containers. Self-grooming can lead to severe oral, skin, and eye damage. Dry potpourri can be toxic or cause an intestinal foreign body.

Drugs: Even small doses of pain relievers, cold medicines, anti-cancer drugs, antidepressants (cats love Effexor), vitamins, and diet pills can be lethal. One regular-strength ibuprofen tablet can cause stomach ulcers in a 10-pound dog. Less than one regular strength acetaminophen tablet is dangerous to a cat. Check with your veterinarian before giving any medication.

Winter hazards: Drinking just one teaspoon of antifreeze can kill a cat; four teaspoons would be dangerous to a 10-pound dog. Propylene glycol antifreeze is much safer. Ice melting products can be irritating to skin and mouth. Rat and mouse killers: Fuggetaboutit if you have pets. Locating these baits in areas that are inaccessible to cats or dogs guarantees nothing; dying rodents can stagger into a pet’s home, making sport hunting too easy to resist. Swallowing a poisoned varmint is dangerous to one’s health, regardless of species.

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (1-888-4-ANI-HELP). Have a safe and merry Christmas.