Holiday Hazards

All the things that we humans love about the holidays can often prove disastrous for our four-legged friends. The following are some of the hazards to watch out for during your holiday celebrations:

Food Hazards
As good as your holiday meal smells to you, it is also attractive to your pet. Two things which can cause stomach distress resulting in vomiting or diarrhea are foods high in fat, or foods which your pet is unaccustomed to and cannot digest. Trash raiding after a meal can also be a problem for some animals. Store your scraps in a dog-proof container and don't surrender to your dog or cat's begging efforts. If your pet won't give up and you can't resist "that look", offer it a small amount of its normal treats or kibble instead of table scraps.

Chocolate, which contains theobromine, is extremely toxic to animals, with baking chocolate being nine times more toxic than milk chocolate. Symptoms of a chocolate poisoned dog are vomiting, excessive urination, diarrhea, hyperactivity, and an increased heart rate. If left untreated, your pet could develop seizures, an abnormal heartbeat, and go into a coma and die.

Any bone which splinters (turkey or chicken) is particularly hazardous as it can become lodged in your pet's esophagus, stomach or intestines or cause damage as it moves through the intestinal system. Severe damage can result in a puncture to the intestinal tract resulting in infection and death.

Onions contain a toxin which destroys a dog's red blood cells, resulting in anemia. Your dog will become lethargic, have difficulty breathing and exhibit pale mucous membranes. The toxin will be excreted from the dog's system over the course of several days, but your dog may need supportive treatment by your vet during the episode.

Like you, your pet loves brightly colored decorations and often will try to eat them. Items such as tinsel, ribbon and string are indigestible and can clog or tear the digestive system. Your animal will exhibit abdominal pain, vomiting, lack of appetite and weight loss if left untreated. Your pet could also become dehydrated, weak and suffer circulatory collapse. Often the treatment entails surgically removing the item.

Electrical Cords
Many animals, espically young ones love to chew electrical cords. If they chew through the insulation, they could receive a nasty shock. If the shock is strong enough, it may render the animal unconscious. Milder shocks may produce mouth burns or fluid in the lungs, which makes it difficult for the animal to breathe. If you leave the house, unplug your decorations so there's no chance of your loved ones getting hurt.

Both poinsettia and mistletoe, two holiday favorites, are toxic. They may cause foaming at the mouth, vomiting and diarrhea. Call your vet if you suspect your pet has eaten this unauthorized holiday snack.

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© 1997 Cocheco Valley Humane Society