Holiday Health Risks

The holiday season is a time of celebration, appreciation, and tradition for all of us. Our homes become filled with decorations while our stomachs become filled with holiday cookies, chocolate, and candy. These new sights, sounds, and smells are all part of the holidays but many of the traditions we enjoy can be dangerous and even life threatening to our pets. However, if you become familiar with potential holiday health risks, this season will be a safe and happy one for both you and your pets.

Cats and dogs love to smell, lick and eat plants. Unfortunately, many holiday plants are extremely dangerous to your pets. Christmas rose, holly berries, and poinsettias can all cause mild to severe stomach and intestinal problems. Lillies and mistletoe are both great to look at and extremely toxic to dogs and cats. Even in low quantities they can cause kidney failure and death. Christmas trees are beautiful and one of the most popular traditions of the holiday season. They offer an abundant supply of pine needles for your pets to chew on and free standing water for them to drink. However, these pine needles can cause pretty severe stomach upset and have occasionally been known to puncture through the intestines. Prevent your pets from drinking tree stand water by covering it, especially if you add chemicals to keep your tree fresh. The fertilizer in the water can upset your pet's stomach and free standing water is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria.

As your home fills with holiday treats remember to keep them safely away from your pets. Chocolate is loved by all, including dogs and cats. Unfortunately, chocolate contains a compound very similar to caffeine, called theobromine. Pets are especially sensitive to theobromine and even small amounts of chocolate can result in severe sickness. Side effects of chocolate ingestion start out as vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach upset. When large quantities of chocolate are consumed per body weight, animals will experience heart arrhythmias, seizures, and even death.

Ornaments, yarn, ribbons, and tinsel are very common during the holidays and make great toys for dogs and cats. If ingested, they can become lodged in the intestines and cause significant stomach upset. Batteries contain numerous toxic substances and should always be kept away from dogs who love to chew them. Electric cords should always be hidden or covered and animals should never be allowed to chew them for risk of electrocution.

If you are aware of the potential holiday health risks in your home you are far more likely to have a happy holiday season. Be proactive and keep things out of your pet's reach, don't leave animals unattended near hazardous substances, and never underestimate your cat's ability to climb your tree. Remember, preventing diseases are far more effective than treating them.

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