Be Aware of Potential Holiday Pet Hazards

December 20, 2006

Just a couple of things to remember for protecting your pets during the holiday season!


Holiday decorations and seasonal household items can create new hazards for your pet. Extra time spent indoors, lack of activity and shiny holiday decorations can often lead to mischief during the winter months. Many everyday products found around your home can pose a real danger to curious cats or mischievous dogs.

Below you will find some helpful tips and reminders to keep your pet safe this winter season.

Christmas Trees – Christmas trees bring holiday cheer but also potential hazards for pets. Water for fresh trees may contain fertilizer and bacteria that if ingested can upset a pet’s stomach. Make sure your tree is well-secured. A climbing cat or a dog with a happy tail can cause disaster for a tree that is not anchored to the wall.

Electrical Cords – A teething puppy will chew on electrical cords and can be shocked or electrocuted. Secure electrical cords, Christmas lights and extension cords and tuck the extra cord behind furniture.

Ribbons and Tinsel – Cats and kittens love to play with string objects, therefore ribbons and tinsel can be very dangerous, even fatal. Tinsel is very enticing to cats because of its sparkling reflection and string- like attributes. Unfortunately, it can get stuck on your cat’s tongue and become ingested. This causes excruciating intestinal agony for your cat and life-threatening gastrointestinal blockages.

Batteries– Alkaline batteries are used in a wide variety of gadgets and contain corrosives, which if chewed or punctured, can result in the development of oral and gastrointestinal (GI) ulcers, or even perforation of the GI tract. Due to their corrosive nature, pet owners should never attempt to induce vomiting if their pet is suspected of having chewed and ingested an alkaline battery. These batteries also contain zinc, and while zinc poisoning is uncommon from battery ingestions, the possibility still exists if enough zinc leaks from the battery casing.

Mistletoe – There is a downside to this fun plant. Dogs that manage to eat mistletoe berries experience vomiting and abdominal pain. If ingested in large enough quantities, mistletoe berries have the potential to produce gastrointestinal irritation, excessive thirst and urination, a drop in blood pressure and heart rate, and in severe cases, difficulty breathing, seizures, coma and even death.

Ice Melt – Ice melt salt and other chemicals used to melt ice can irritate your dog’s paws. They are also toxic if ingested. If such chemicals are used where you walk, wash your dog’s paws when you get home, or have him wear booties. Use a nontoxic ice melt on your own walks and driveway.

Antifreeze – Antifreeze is an odorless fluid with a sweet taste that dogs in particular have a fondness for. Poisoning is swift; around a tablespoon is deadly to an average-sized dog, and the mortality rate is about 88 percent. The dog’s liver actually turns against itself breaking down th e antifreeze and changing it into oxalic acid. A dog cannot metabolize this substance, and this is what leads to health problems and often death. Always mop up any spills the instant they happen and be aware of puddles near parked cars. Sprinkling the area with an absorbent material such as sand, cat litter, wood shavings or sawdust will prevent the dog from licking the spot where the spill or leak occurred.

Chocolate – Think twice before leaving a bowl of chocolates on the table for guests since it is poisonous to many animals. The less sweet the chocolate, the more toxic it could be due to the caffeine and theobromine it contains. Chocolate poisoning may cause vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, hyperactivity and increased thirst, urination and heart rate.

Mothballs – If you pack your stockings and decorations away with mothballs, be sure to keep your pets out of the area when you are unpa cking. Nap hthalene found in mothballs can cause muscle tremors, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, liver, kidney and blood cell damage, swelling of the brain tissues, seizures, coma and death if ingested – and respiratory tract damage, if inhaled. Just one mothball can potentially produce significant illness.

Bones – You may think you are giving your dog a treat, but the reality is that leftover meat bones are dangerous. Meat bones are easily chewed into sharp splinters that can lodge in the GI tract and may cause esophageal or intestinal lacerations, or partial or complete obstructions. Never induce vomiting if your pet has swallowed any bone that can splinter because it may cause an esophageal laceration. Some substances such as poinsettia plants, kitty litter, glue traps and glow jewelry are considered non-toxic for dogs and cats but can still cause an upset stomach if ingested.

Credit: North Shore Animal League America

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Dan (Dog Health Problems Guru) Peterson January 23, 2008 at 10:32 pm

“household items can create new hazards for your pet” – Absolutely Right. Proper Training of the pets also helps them to be save themselves from these Hazards. A well trained dog can handle these hazards more efficiently. I totally agree with your points made in this posting.


Dr. Kang-pang Chan February 1, 2008 at 6:33 pm

Thanks for the tips.
Also, the symptoms of pain and discomfort experienced by a dog can give us many clues about the possible underlying illness. If the dog is suffering any abdominal pain, it may be due to canine hepatitis, enteritis or it can be a simple case of constipation.


Barbara G. February 12, 2008 at 6:17 am

A great article on safety precautions to be taken with household pets. A must read for all household pet owners.


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