Keep It A Happy Holidays for Pets
Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s, and Kwanza converge in
midwinter when skies are dark and much of the world is cold. It’s no wonder we
celebrate these seasons with lights, evergreens, and sweets.
Take a moment, though, in planning your festivities to remember the dog and cat. Also ferrets, mice, rabbits or any other critters that share your house.
Start with greenery. Rover probably doesn’t need a mistletoe lure to give you a big sloppy kiss. But if he eats it, that’s trouble.
Quite a few traditional holiday greens need watching. Christmas trees, typically a variety of pine or fir, are mildly toxic. If the dog chews one branch or the cat swipes at them and rolls around in pine-needle litter, there’s probably no harm done.
Other evergreens are not so benign. Holly, like mistletoe, is toxic. So is the sap from poinsettias.
And that beautiful amaryllis is also known as belladonna. It’s so deadly it’s not even a good idea to have it indoors if you have an inquisitive pet.
Even if your critters don’t chew the greenery, there’s a less obvious threat they are likely to encounter. That’s the water in the base of your live tree. The trees are often treated with pesticides and preservatives that can leach into the water.
Symptoms of poisoning from these plants include vomiting and diarrhea, which you will surely notice. But also pay attention if your pets are suddenly licking themselves more than usual or drinking more water than they normally do.
If they’re not eating the greens, the next spot to watch is the table. Most people know that chocolate is poisonous to dogs. But there’s an even worse threat that many people miss—artificial sweeteners. Xylitol is the greatest threat.
If a dog gets hold of sugar-free chewing gum, breath mints, even candy canes hanging from your tree that are sweetened with xylitol, it could prove fatal. A severe reaction could come within 10-60 minutes, but can also be delayed for as long as a day. Xylitol has a different effect on canines than it does on humans. For humans, it does not affect insulin levels. For dogs, it causes a flood of insulin to hit the bloodstream, leading to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Cats are adversely affected by xylitol as well, but they tend not to react as strongly as dogs.
While you are guarding the sweets, watch out for anything with raisins, nuts or nutmeg. No eggnog or mincemeat for your four-footed friends either.
Of course holiday lights, Christmas trees, and Hanukkah bushes can render a shock to any animal that bites through a cord. But inert garlands can be a problem, too, especially for cats that like to swat pretty sparkly things and roll around until they are thoroughly tangled. Pets can also chew the tinsel, which can cause blockages in their digestive systems.