The holiday season is in full gear.  This is a time of merriment for many of us, but holiday traditions that bring us joy can bring illness and pain to our furry family members.  Please review this list and keep your celebrations pet-friendly!

1) Plants

Most folks are aware that poinsettias are poisonous, but did you know that mistletoe, Christmas cacti, and some species of holly are also toxic? Fortunately, none of these plants are considered severely toxic (unlikely to cause death) but they do cause varying levels of gastrointestinal irritation.  Just a few nibbles and you could be in for some severe clean-up duty.  Please avoid these plants or be sure that they are safely out of reach.   If your pet is experiencing vomiting and diarrhea, call your veterinarian right away.  No pet wants their Christmas present to be one of intestinal upset.  And while we are on the topic of toxic plants, please don’t forget Easter lilies in the spring. Easter lilies are extremely dangerous, and just a taste of one leaf can be enough cause sudden kidney failure and death.  Never have an Easter lily in your home if you have pets!

2) The Tree

Sap from evergreen trees also contains gastrointestinal irritants.  This irritation leads to mild vomiting or diarrhea, but if your pet has a tendency towards intestinal sensitivity this could escalate and become severe, especially with repeated exposure.  The sap is found on the tree and needles but also in the tree’s water.  If your cat is curious, please consider an artificial tree or use a cover over the water reservoir to keep them out.  Also, don’t forget, a playful puppy or cat can easily knock over the tree causing both injury and fire hazard – so secure that tree well!

3) Decorations

An adorned tree or lit candles set the mood for Christmas or Hanukkah, but these can be dangerous as well.  Be sure lit candles are protected from curious paws or happy tails – no one wants a burned pet or home fire.  Decorations on the tree should be chosen wisely.  Tinsel is enticing to our feline friends -a few small pieces of tinsel in the belly can easily lead to intestinal blockage.  Ornament hooks that fall from the tree during tear down are appealing to playful pets and are easily swallowed.  This can lead to an emergency room trip in no time!  Please use ribbon hangers if possible and do not use tinsel on your tree, they aren’t worth your friend’s life! For packages under the tree, please only use stick-on bows.  The curling ribbon is tempting and tasty.  If you are lucky, small chewed pieces could pass through in the stool, but ribbon only 6 inches or so long could quickly cause a linear foreign body that easily saws through intestinal walls.  ”Pretty is as pretty does” the saying goes.

4) Foods

Most cautious pet owners are aware of the biggies here – chocolate and raisins- but don’t overlook other holiday foods.  Pet’s stomachs are not designed to handle high-fat foods and sudden changes in diet.  Foods such as ham, cheeses, and desserts, even in small amounts, can lead to dangerous and sometimes fatal pancreatitis.  Scraps of human food are an overindulgence to our pets who are used to a balanced diet, a sudden change in diet to rich foods can lead to intestinal distress!

5) Parties

A final word of caution during this holiday season.  Think of the pets first during home gatherings and parties.  Our pets are used to the daily balance of their families and homes.  As humans, we enjoy gathering together for special occasions, but to our four-legged friends, these parties can be overwhelming.  Avoid anxiety for your furry friend – be sure they have a safe quiet place to get away from the hustle and bustle.  Also, please don’t bring your dog to other family members’ homes for holiday celebrations.  Forcing pets to interact with unfamiliar animals and people in an unfamiliar home can cause everyone to be uncomfortable.  The best gift for your pet is to let them enjoy the peace and quiet we all crave during the holiday season.

Be merry, count your blessings, and enjoy your pets this wonderful season. Happy Holidays!

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