Tips on Preventing Holiday Hazards from Harming your Pets

The smell of the feast is sure to have tails wagging, but busy crowds of family and friends and an abundance of food may present safety hazards for your pets. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and Animal Hospital of North Asheville offer the following tips to keep pets safe this holiday season.

The holiday feast is for people – not pets.  Table scraps may seem like a fun way to include a pet, but many foods are poisonous to pets, including onions, garlic, raisins and grapes. Go to for a complete list of foods and household items that are dangerous or poisonous to pets. Even a feast that’s no longer on the table can be dangerous. A turkey carcass left in an easily opened trash container could prove deadly if the family pet finds it.  A dog that “discovers” the carcass can quickly eat so much that he can develop pancreatitis, which can cause serious illness or even death. Dispose of turkey carcasses and other leftovers in a covered, tightly secured container along with anything used to wrap or tie the meat and any bones left on plates. Bones are hazards and can be very tempting for pets. Most people don’t realize that besides the often serious intestinal problems that bones can cause, bones often break dogs’ teeth. A good rule of thumb is: Don’t give your dog anything that feels hard to chew on.  No real bones (raw or cooked) and no nylon bones. No deer antlers. No hooves. No hard chew toys of any kind! Even ice can break your dog’s teeth.

Desserts and pets don’t mix. Most people know that chocolate is poisonous to pets, but remember that the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is. Be sure to keep chocolate in any form carefully secured and away from pets. An artificial sweetener called Xylitol has also been shown to be just as deadly to dogs. Xylitol is a common sweetener used in baked goods. Want to treat your pets? Buy a treat that is made just for them. Pets will enjoy the treat just as much as anything from the table, and it can spare you an emergency visit to the hospital.

Danger may be lurking under your tree as well. Cats and dogs are often attracted to bows and ribbon which can be deadly if swallowed. Pieces of ribbon or string can become lodged in the intestines causing great damage. We have seen many sad cases of these linear foreign bodies at Animal Hospital of North Asheville, and they can be easily prevented. Also, keep in mind that a well-meaning friend may put a wrapped present under your tree, and if it is chocolate, your pet’s keen nose will easily detect it. We have seen dogs with chocolate toxicity that have opened presents and eaten not only the chocolate but the box too!

For some pets, houseguests can be scary. Pets who are shy or excitable around new people may have a hard time during the holidays when new people may be visiting. If a dog or cat is likely to be overwhelmed when people come over, they should stay in another room or a crate so they’re out of the frenzy and feel safe. And remember to fit some time into your schedule to give your pets what they want most, some one-on-one attention from you. If pets are comfortable around guests, they should be watched closely when houseguests are entering or leaving to make sure the four-legged family member doesn’t make a break for it out the door and become lost. A microchip and an identification tag are some of the best gifts you can give your pet, since they are the best ways to have a lost pet returned to you.

Decorations can be dangerous. Holiday tables are often dressed with centerpieces and flowers, which should be kept up and away from your pets. Some decorations look good enough to eat and pets may decide to have a taste. Depending on the flower or decoration, this can result in stomach upset or worse. Lilies, in particular, are deadly to cats. Pine cones and needles, if consumed by a pet, can cause an intestinal blockage or even perforate the animal’s intestine. Garland and tinsel can cause the same problems as ribbons and string, so be sure to keep this type of decoration out of reach.

Fire, children, and pets make a bad combination. Dinner by candlelight can provide an elegant atmosphere for a holiday meal, but where there’s a flame, there’s the opportunity for disaster. Children and pets should be kept away from any open flame or fire. If the safety of candles can’t be ensured during the holiday commotion, substitute battery-operated or electric candles. Be especially mindful of children and pets around the fireplace.

You can still “deck the halls” and have a great time, but by using these tips, you and your pets can have a happy, healthy, and SAFE holiday season!

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