Miss Kira’s Corner

Happy, Merry, Monster Mash-Up: Pet Safety For the Holidays

By Miss Kira

Tips to Keep Your Pets Safe & Happy from Halloween, to Thanksgiving, through Christmas & New Year’s Eve

Spending time at the animal emergency hospital is likely not part of your busy holiday plans (or your budget!!).

Miss Kira here with our Holiday Hazards Monster Mash-up article with lots of helpful hints, safety tips, pet poison control phone numbers, and a new chocolate toxicity calculator / meter.

Why did we create this resource for pet parents?

Because spending time at the emergency animal hospital is not part of our plans, either. Woof! Woof!!

We hope you’ll read our safety tips to help ensure the autumn and winter holidays can be fun for the entire family, including your pets.

And by taking a few moments, right now, to bring awareness, to talk with your kids, and take preemptive steps to minimize risk, you may be able to save your pets from harm, and save time, money, and heartache, too.

Candy, and Chocolate, and Sweets — Oh my!

Hard Candy, Lollipops or Suckers, Candy & Gum Wrappers

These items can create deadly choking hazards and bowel obstructions once ingested.

Pets can choke while swallowing and when vomiting these items.

If the foreign body makes it past the stomach, pets can still suffer bowel obstructions which require surgery.

Xylitol

This artificial sweetener used in candy, gum, and other sweet treats (plus many more products like toothpaste) can be extremely toxic to pets.

Chocolate

Chocolate toxicity depends on several factors regarding the type of chocolate, how much was ingested, and the weight of the pet. It is the Theobromine and Caffeine in chocolate which can cause adverse reactions.

Some common symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Tremors, shaking, or trembling
  • Nervousness or agitation
  • Painful abdomen
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Increased thirst
  • Seizures
  • Death

When it comes to chocolate, dry cocoa powder, Baker’s chocolate, dark and semi-sweet chocolate are among the most dangerous, and white chocolate contains no theobromine, at all.

As an example, using the PetMD Chocolate Toxicity Meter Widget:

A 15-lb Pomeranian who ate 2 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate equals an emergency!
A 60-lb Labrador who ate 8 ounces of milk chocolate may have a mild reaction.

Quick Tip: Why risk it? Rather than trying to determine which chocolate is or isn’t dangerous, perhaps consider all chocolate as potentially harmful. Ask family members, house guests, neighborhood kids, etc., to be especially mindful about chocolate during the holiday excitement.

Here is a helpful interactive chocolate toxicity meter widget from petMD.com. However, if you know or suspect your pet has ingested chocolate, it’s best to immediately call the Pet Poison Hotline, your veterinary hospital, or a 24-hour animal emergency hospital and speak with a licensed veterinarian or veterinary professional who may be able to provide guidance over the phone.

Medication

Curious-kitties and Hoover-hounds take their jobs seriously as they sniff, snarf, and sample everything found on the kitchen floor, under the beds, in coat pockets … everywhere!

House guests can bring an added degree of danger because pets will be naturally curious as they investigate suitcases, backpacks, toiletry bags, or grandma’s enormous purse; all places your guests may have “safely” packed their medications. Not all human medication is toxic to pets, but many can cause vomiting, diarrhea, liver failure, kidney failure, respiratory distress or failure, and some can cause death.

Quick Tip: Why risk it? Rather than trying to determine which human medications are or are not toxic to pets, perhaps consider all human drugs, including over the counter medication, as potentially toxic to pets. And make time to chat with your guests upon arrival in order to agree upon a safe, secure, out-of-reach area where they are to store their medication while staying in your home.

If you know or suspect your pet has ingested human medication, please first call the poison control hotline before you call us or a 24-hour emergency animal hospital. The poison control representative will provide critical information the veterinarian will need upon your arrival at the hospital.

Tasty Morsels

I know how difficult it can be for pet parents to say No to puppy dog eyes and kitty paw love taps. However, sharing even a tiny morsel of certain foods can put a big damper on your holiday plans.

Turkey, Stuffing, Rich Foods

A relatively small amount of some favorite holiday dishes can cause gastroenteritis, poisoning, and pancreatitis in dogs and cats. These conditions can be extremely painful with pancreatitis often becoming chronic. The general rule of thumb is, “once pancreatitis – always pancreatitis.”

And according to a press release published by PetPlan, insurance claims for veterinary bills paid to treat gastroenteritis, poisoning, and pancreatitis increased by 91%, 82%, and 28% respectively over the 4-day Thanksgiving Holiday in 2012.

Unbaked Dough – Just Say NO!

Pets who ingest uncooked dough can become seriously ill as the dough can start to rise while inside of your pet’s stomach causing serious conditions from bloat to alcohol poisoning.

Wait! What? Alcohol poisoning?

Technically, it is called ethanol toxicosis. A pet’s G.I. system quickly absorbs the ethanol gasses into their blood stream and that small bite of dough is now a big emergency situation. As the ethanol level rises, pets can experience respiratory depression, cardiac arrest, and death can follow.

The ASPCA Poison Control Center has noted they receive the most calls about bread dough poisoning between the Thanksgiving and Easter holidays.

In addition to alcohol poisoning, the dough can rise and expand inside of your pet’s warm stomach causing the stomach to twist – leading to a condition called gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV also called bloat), or in severe cases, gastric rupture.

And if the dough does make it through your pet’s stomach and starts the journey through your pet’s intestinal tract, it can get stuck and cause an obstruction. Serious obstructions require serious surgery.

Bones

Bones are a triple-threat; choking hazard, puncture hazard (sharp edges can scratch, perforate, or rip your pet’s stomach or intestinal tissue), and they pose bowel blockage hazards.

Fruits, Vegetables, Spices, and Seasonings

Many of the ingredients in our traditional holiday dishes can contain hidden dangers. Several of the more common examples include grapes, raisins, currants, onion, garlic, chives, nuts, citrus, cocoa, chocolate, xylitol, and more. For a more complete list of food hazards, visit this page on the website.

Alcohol, Caffeinated Drinks, and Soft Drinks

The holidays can bring new types of beverages into your home. Be aware of soft drinks or beverages containing xylitol, and of course never allow pets to consume any alcohol or caffeinated beverages, too. For a more complete list, visit this website.

Holiday Plants & Flowers

While poinsettias garner the most media attention, it turns out they are not as dangerous as The Internet portrays. Of course, you should do your best to keep your pets from munching on poinsettias, but there are other holiday-related plants and flowers which are more dangerous. Below is a list of some of the more common winter holiday-related dangerous plants:
  • Mistletoe
  • Holly and holly berries
  • Amaryllis
  • Pine needles (can perforate soft tissue inside mouth, throat, stomach, and intestinal tracks)
  • Water from the tree stand
  • Lilies – beyond the Easter Lily, all lilies are extremely toxic.

For a more complete list, visit: www.aspca.org/animal-poison-control

Holiday Décor & Gift Wrap

Every year we see more neighborhoods becoming more elaborate with Halloween and Christmas decorations.

Tinsel, Gift Wrap Ribbon, String, and Twine

All of these items can cause life threatening injuries if swallowed because the material could get stuck in your pet’s G.I. tract and cause intussusception. Intussusception is a condition within which the pet’s G.I. tract tissue gets ‘bunched up’ and collapses unto itself when moving along the foreign body (string, ribbon, tinsel, etc). Similar to the way fabric curtains can get ‘bunched-up’ when slid along the stationary curtain rod. Intussusception is an emergency.

Glass and Breakable Ornaments

To dogs and cats, holiday decor may look like a treasure-trove of toys. A tree trimmed with shiny, jingling, dangling ornaments is nearly irresistible. Pets can sustain injuries to their paws from stepping on broken glass. In addition, pets instinctively lick their wounds and can then transfer glass or other harmful material into tongues, teeth and gums, and can cause additional harm if swallowed.

Power Cords, Batteries, and Glow Sticks

Often a source of devastating results, pets can electrocute themselves while chewing on power cords, electrical cords, extension cords, strings of lights, etc.

If your pet swallows any kind of battery, it’s an emergency.

And every Halloween, glow sticks account for a majority of Pet Poison Hotline phone calls.

Pets in Costumes

Many pet parents find it fun to dress-up pets in Halloween costumes or enjoy a good laugh at them wearing felt reindeer antlers or ugly Christmas sweaters. Please consider a ‘keep it simple’ approach when shopping for your pets because they can become tangled in beads, strings, belts, and sashes, and even ingest buttons, beads, and snaps, etc.

An ill-fitting costume can create bodily injuries including strangulation.

Be aware that some fabric dyes can be toxic to your pets.

Quick Tip: Why risk it? Carefully read labels and when in doubt, don’t do it! Most of us pets don’t particularly enjoy dress-up, anyway. And never leave your pet unattended while they are wearing a costume.

Open Flames – Fire Hazards

Carved Pumpkin Jack-o-Lanterns, Candles & Fireplace Considerations

As a dog, I was shocked to learn that according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) pets are responsible for over 1,000 house fires every year in the U.S.

This can happen when pets knock over candles or anything containing a candle such as the carved pumpkin Jack-o-Lantern.

In addition to the unintentional arson, pets can sustain painful burn injuries from candles, candle wax, and hot coals or shooting embers from the fireplace.

And perhaps one of the more popular pet arson videos is this one here about our pal who accidentally turned on the gas burner stove top while trying to steal a piece of pizza from the cardboard pizza box.

The holidays tend to bring even more food into our homes and because of lack of space in our refrigerators or on our countertops, pet parents start sticking food all around the kitchen, dining room, family room, patio, garage, or in other places food isn’t usually kept. This can be an irresistible opportunity for many pets.

Noise

Halloween and New Year’s Eve tend to be the most stressful of the autumn and winter holidays for pets.

Imagine the Halloween shenanigans from your pet’s perspective; the doorbell is rung more times in this one evening than it is for the rest of the entire year! And opening the door reveals a seemingly endless parade of little alien creatures with high-pitched voices wielding plastic weapons and enormous candy bags.

New Year’s Eve offers an equally scary night with the sounds of firecrackers, sirens, yelling, air horns, noise-makers, coupled with all of the other dogs in the neighborhood who are barking and howling.

Some pets can become very anxious or frightened on Halloween and New Year’s Eve.

Please offer your pets a safe and quiet place where they can rest and take a break from the noise, excitement, and stimulation.

And ask us about a new medication called SILEO to help pets stay calm, but not sedated, during noisy events.

Lost Pets

Every Halloween we hear the stories about pets who somehow slipped out the door while pet parents were preoccupied serving candy to trick-or-treaters.

Beyond Halloween, the autumn and winter months are filled with family gatherings and holiday parties which bring an influx of house guests who are coming & going and may not be accustomed to watching out for pets.

Losing your precious pet is traumatic at any time of the year, but emotions can be amplified by the added stressors associated with the holidays.

A collar with up to date tags is not enough. Please be sure your pet is microchipped. We can help.

In conclusion, a pet emergency is likely not part of your holiday plans. Thus, please take a few moments of your time to remove the potential hazards and chat with your family members and house guests. A preemptive approach can save time, money, and heartache in the future.

Cheers to all! We hope you’ve found this helpful.

If this information helps even only one pet to be safer, healthier, or happier, then we’ve done our job as Dog Bloggers.

What did we miss? Do you have any extra warnings or tips to share? Please comment below.

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