Pet safety during the holidays

sokamoto@ledger-enquirer.comDecember 13, 2013 

ROBIN TRIMARCHI Dr. Jean Waguespack hold Mattie, a 10-year old pug, at Animal General Hospital. 12.12.13


Christmas decorations and holiday treats can be dangerous to pets if their owners don't take precautions.

Plants, candy, ornaments, even the Christmas tree are all holiday hazards for pets.

Even that Christmas plant -- lily or mistletoe -- that a pet nibbles on while you weren't looking could possibly kill it.

But don't worry too much about the most famous Christmas plant -- the Poinsettia.

"It's a big misconception," said Dr. Dennis Young, who owns the All-Cat Clinic. "Poinsettias are not toxic. Mistletoe is very toxic."

Young says for years the Poinsettia has "had a bad rap." He said mistletoes can actually kill an animal within hours. Poinsettias may cause a tummy ache, but is not life-threatening.

The Christmas lily is another toxic plant that can kill a pet, especially cats, in hours, he said.

If you have these plants in your house, keep them away from the animals; keep them up higher, not on the floor; and remember that cats climb, and so do some dogs.

Better yet, Young says, don't have them in the house.

What else could make your pet sick?

Maybe it was that candy that got dropped on the floor. Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, can make dogs very sick.

There's a chemical called theobromine in chocolate that is extremely toxic, Young said.

"It doesn't take much," he said.

If a small dog eats as little as 1.5 ounces of unsweetened dark chocolate, it can be deadly. So make sure chocolate is as far away from your pets.

Or maybe your pet got sick because you fed your favorite furry baby from your plate.

Dr. Jean Waguespack, who owns Animal General Hospital on Macon Road with her husband, Dr. Wayne Waguespack, says they see a lot of animals suffering from gastroenterological upsets -- a digestive system disorder -- during the holiday season.

"I don't recommend giving them any people food," she said. "No people food."

If you're tempted to feed your pet turkey or chicken, make sure that it's "boring," she said. No seasonings, oil or butter. Just plain boiled turkey or chicken.

As for the Christmas tree, all those dangling ornaments, strings of lights and tinsel are a playground for pets, especially cats.

When they inadvertently eat tinsel or ornaments, it could become a big problem.

Cats especially find ribbon and tinsel "fascinating," Young said.

He's had to remove 50-feet of ribbon in one cat.

After you've wrapped all the presents, he said to put away all the ribbons, no matter how tired you are.

As for extension cords, make sure they are grounded so a cat or dog won't be electrocuted if they decide to chew on the cord.

If you've got a fresh Christmas tree, make sure the tree stand pan is filled with just plain water.

"It doesn't matter if they've got a dish of fresh water over there," Young said. "A cat or dog will drink out of that new thing filled with water."what to keep away from your pets

No mistletoe or lilies in reach of your pets. No chocolate. No ribbons, tinsel or ornaments where pets can reach them. Keep your extension cords grounded. No chemicals in the water in the tree stand; just plain water. Follow those rule and your pets should be safe this Christmas.

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