Holidays increase dangers for pets | Home & Garden
By Susan Collins-Smith
MSU Ag Communications
FLOWOOD – The holidays are full of tasty treats, glittery decorations and shiny new toys, but for pets these things could mean big trouble.
And for pet owners, that may mean emergency trips to the veterinarian.
“During the holidays, we see a lot of emergencies,” said Dr. J. Darrell Phillips, hospital administrator of Animal Emergency and Referral Center in Flowood, an affiliate of Mississippi State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
Partaking of all the holiday meals, snacks and candies that are so plentiful this time of year is something most people enjoy, but the same should not be true for pets. Phillips encourages pet owners to be careful with food, as well as ornamental plants and holiday decorations.
“We see a lot of gastrointestinal upset in pets where they have just eaten too much,” he said. “But a lot of things are toxic to our pets, like chocolate, grapes, raisins and some nuts. And those things can cause serious injury and sometimes death.”
Seek treatment by a veterinarian right away if a pet eats anything toxic.
“While some poisonings, such as with anticoagulants and antifreeze, require minimal exposure to be lethal, the prognosis for many poisoning incidents can be improved with prompt intervention,” said Dr. Jody Ray, assistant clinical professor at the MSU veterinary college. “Some poisonings require immediate attention for the best possible outcome, and some may not be as time-sensitive. Consulting with your veterinarian in the event of a poisoning is the best option.”
Decorations, including ornamental plants, often can be the cause for holiday trips to the emergency veterinary clinic.
“It is a safe bet that most ornamental plants that folks have around during the holidays are somewhat toxic, but some very popular holiday plants are extremely toxic, such as lilies,” Phillips said.
In fact, many common holiday foods, plants and products are quite dangerous for pets, Ray said.
“The most common poisonings reported in companion animals include human foods such as onions, chocolate, raisins, alcohol, recreational drugs and coffee; commercial home products such as potpourri and yeast dough; and household plants such as lilies and poinsettias,” Ray said.
Being mindful and keeping dangerous things out of reach will help keep pets out of the emergency room. A few tips to help keep pets safe around holiday décor include unplugging the tree lights when unattended, not placing food gifts under the tree even if wrapped, and not using tinsel around cats.
“Pets are curious, and during the holidays we have all kinds of unusual things around the house,” Phillips said. “I tell people to think of it like they are going to baby-proof a house. You are going to do the same kind of thing for your pet during the holidays -- and the rest of the year.”
Antifreeze is a common toxin this time of year, Phillips said. While most pets are exposed to antifreeze from vehicles, according to PetPoisonHelpline.com, some imported snow globes have been found to contain antifreeze. The site also recommends burning non-toxic candles in lieu of popular liquid potpourri burners, especially if there are cats in the house. Just a few licks can cause chemical burns in the mouth, tremors and difficulty breathing.
Pet owners should keep in mind that hazards to pets are present year-round. During the holidays, though, access to emergency care could be limited for many pet owners. A pet first aid kit could help a pet survive a poisoning or an accident.
“Pet first aid kits can be very helpful,” Ray said. “However, it is very important to always consult with a veterinarian before administering any kind of treatment to your pet. You want to make sure you administer the right treatments in the right amounts.”
Items to include in the kit are the veterinarian’s phone number, the phone number of the closest emergency clinic or an animal poison control hotline, a muzzle or nylon stocking (hurt or stressed animals may try to bite), hydrogen peroxide, gauze, a thermometer, a leash, a stretcher and clean towels.
Dr. Todd Archer, MSU-CVM assistant professor of small animal medicine, said the Pet Poison Helpline and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals websites have reliable information about dangers for pets, but both also staff minimal-fee hotlines 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
The Pet Poison Helpline can be reached at 1-800-213-6680. The ASPCA’s poison hotline can be reached at 1-888-426-4435.