All About Pets

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Holidays potentially hazardous to pets

The holiday season is full of joy. But in the midst of decorating and socializing, pet owners may overlook the needs of their pets. Hectic schedules and homes full of unusual décor can throw pets off-kilter.

No pet owner wants their pet to feel uncomfortable or suffer any injuries, so it's important that owners exercise caution with the following items come the holiday season.

• Bones: Is turkey on the menu for the family feast? If so, resist the urge to toss some bones and scraps to dogs or cats. Small bones or bone chips can become lodged in the digestive tracts of pets and cause serious injury. If you want to provide your pet with a holiday treat, choose a safer, store-bought bone.

• Aromatic oils: The holidays are not the same without the familiar scent of mint, cinnamon or pine. Some people resort to scented candles or aromatherapy oils to create the perfect holiday ambiance. But some synthetic aromas or even natural extracts can be toxic to cats and dogs. Stick to nontoxic items and keep them well out of the pet's reach.

• Chocolate and other sweets: An abundance of treats seems to be par for the course during the holiday season. Dogs should avoid all chocolate, but dark chocolate poses a particularly serious threat. Chocolate can cause agitation, elevated heart rate, diarrhea, vomiting, seizures, and even death. In addition, candy or cookies sweetened with the artificial sweetener xylitol can cause a dangerous drop in blood pressure for dogs.

• Pine needles and trees: When ingested, pine needles can puncture the intestines of pets. In search of an easy drink, dogs and cats may be drawn to the fresh water reservoir of live trees, increasing the likelihood that they knock over a Christmas tree, injuring themselves and causing damage around the house. Trees should be properly secured, and fallen needles should be promptly discarded.

• Tinsel and decorations: Skip the tinsel if you have a cat. Felines are likely to mistake tinsel for a toy. Eating tinsel can cause severe damage to a cat's intestinal tract, as it may get caught in the stomach while the rest of it continues to pass through the intestines. Tinsel also may wrap around the tongue, increasing the cat's risk of choking. Ornaments also are tempting playthings. Cats may pounce on glass ornaments, breaking them and suffering injury. Keep pets in mind when selecting tree ornaments, and opt for unbreakable ornaments when possible.

• Electrical cords: The American Animal Hospital Association says holiday lights mean more electrical cords for kittens and puppies to chew. Secure all cords and keep them out of reach of pets.

• Candles: The subtle flicker of a lit candle can add ambiance to a space. But all it takes is the swish of a tail or the pat of a paw to knock over a candle and spark a fire. Never leave lit candles unattended. If you have boisterous pets, opt for LED simulated candles instead.

• Alcohol: Spirits are sometimes a part of celebrations, but alcoholic beverages should be kept out of reach of pets. Alcohol suppresses the immune system, and it can result in significant health issues for pets who consume it.

The holiday season is a time for celebration. Ensure that these festivities are as safe for pets as they are enjoyable.