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From 22 December 2002 Issue

Holiday "Pet" Hazards

For a safe holiday season, safeguard companion animal with the following tips:

* Increased activity and visitors during the holiday season can upset your companion animal's routine. Try to keep your "pet" on his regular schedule for feeding and exercise and isolate if s/he gets too excited. Watch for guests leaving doors open where "pet" may escape.

The following plants are poisonous to companion animals:

* Mistletoe ~ Very toxic, all parts, especially the berries.
* Holly ~ Moderate to very toxic, especially the berries and leaves.
* Poinsettia ~ Leaves and stems low in toxicity.
* Christmas Greens: Balsam Juniper, Cedar, Pine, Fir ~ All parts of these plants have a low toxicity level.
* Christmas tree water and pine needles will cause vomiting, diarrhea, weakness and trembling in cats.

The following decorations can be harmful:

* Bubbling Lights ~ Moderate to lethal toxicity, depending on the amount of fluid (methylene chloride) inhaled or ingested.
* Fireplace Colors (fire salts) ~ Moderate toxicity, symptoms are gastrointestinal irritation with vomiting and convulsions.
* Angel Hair (spun glass) ~ Low toxicity, can cause irritation of the eyes, skin and gastrointestinal tract.
* Christmas Tree Preservative Solution ~ Low toxicity, depending upon formulation and quantity ingested.
* Snow Sprays and Snow Flock ~ Low toxicity, dry particles are inert; however, toxicity from inhalation can occur if sprayed directly in mouth.
* Styrofoam ~ Low toxicity, can cause choking.
* Christmas Tree Ornaments ~ Non-toxic, but irritation or obstruction of the gastrointestinal tract can occur if ingested.
* Icicles (tinsel) ~ Non toxic, however intestinal obstruction and choking are potential problems.
* Snow Scenes ~ Toxicity may come from organisms possibly in the water, most notably Salmonella. Some globes are filled with anti-freeze which is very toxic.
* Some wrapping papers contain lead. Ingestion can cause lead poisoning.
* Be careful of strings and ribbons, especially for cats who like linear things, and may cause choking or intestinal blockage.
* Replace metal ornament hooks with tightly knotted fabric 1/4 inch ribbons, lightweight twine or yarn to slip easily over the branches of the tree.

Other dangers:

* Alcoholic beverages; holiday treats such as chocolates; rich, fatty food scraps and bones from poultry, pork and fish can be harmful or toxic to pets. Keep your pet on his regular diet and caution visitors against giving your pet "special treats." One ounce of milk chocolate per pound of body weight or one ounce of baking chocolate per 10 pounds of body weight can be fatal to a dog or cat.

* Button battery (disk-type battery) ~ Caustic, potentially high toxicity depending up on the position of the battery in the gastrointestinal tract.

* Aftershave Lotion, Colognes, Perfumes, Alcoholic Beverages ~ Ethanol in various concentrations is moderately toxic depending upon the amount ingested. The high concentrations of essential oils in true perfumes are especially toxic.

* Plastic Model Cement ~ Moderate toxicity.

* Epoxy Adhesive ~ Uncured hardener: moderate to high toxicity. Uncured resin: low toxicity, primarily irritation and sensitization.

* Adhesive, Super Glue ~ Low toxicity, most difficulty occurs when eyelids become bonded together.

* Crayons, Felt Tip Markers, Pencils, Water-based Paints ~ Low toxicity, however may cause more than a mild mucous membrane and gastrointestinal irritation.

* Petroleum-based Paints ~ Low toxicity, primary concern is possibility of aspiration.

* Toys ~ Avoid toys with parts small enough to be pulled off and swallowed and toys painted with toxic materials, etc. Use same precautions as with children.

In any case where a guardian suspects an animal has eaten something they should not have, call your veterinarian and tell them what they ate and how much. The veterinarian will decide what action should be taken for the animal.

Pets' highly sensitive noses pick up scents before humans can. Therefore, don't be surprised when Fluffy and Fido are underfoot in the kitchen while holiday goodies are being prepared. Watch those hot containers filled with liquids. Animals can easily tip them over causing severe scalding and burns to themselves. Also, human food is too rich. Overfeeding of human food can cause health problems.

Please do not give kittens and puppies, or any pets, as Christmas gifts. Remember the first weeks of a new life or a sudden change in an adult pet is extremely traumatic for them. Instead, give gifts of pet supplies, food, and accessories. Then after the bustle of the holidays, the recipient can make a selection of the pet of their choice to bring home to peace and quiet. This will also provide the happy new pet guardian time to spend with his/her new lifetime companion.

Go on to A Silent Night: My Vision of the Holidays
Return to 22 December 2002 Issue
Return to Newsletters

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