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The holiday season is all about joy and fun. For dogs, it can also be full of potential dangers and stress. Pet parents will want to keep an eye out for things that are toxic to dogs to avoid issues that could turn their festive celebration into a trip to their local veterinary clinics.
As they prepare for the holiday season, pet parents should make sure they add creating a safe environment for their dogs to their “to-do” lists. That should include making sure they know what items are holiday pet hazards and taking steps to avoid potentially devastating issues.
For many families, decorating a Christmas tree is a beloved holiday tradition. However, real and fake trees pose several potential holiday pet hazards:
Pine needles: Pine needles could puncture the lining of a dog’s intestinal tract. They could also cause a blockage.
Tinsel: Accidentally ingesting tinsel could lead to intestinal obstructions.
Ornaments: Broken ornaments put dogs at risk of injury.
Christmas tree water: Additives such as sugar, aspirin, or flower preservatives can help real trees last longer, but these substances are toxic to dogs.
These potential hazards don’t mean pet parents can’t set up a Christmas tree. Instead, they might take one or more of the following measures:
Use a baby gate or block off access to the room housing the tree when no one is present.
Place fragile ornaments and garlands out of reach.
Avoid adding anything to the water at the base of their tree.
Teach their dog simple safety commands.
Poinsettias are another common holiday staple in many households harmful to dogs. If eaten, they can cause issues such as irritation in the mouth, stomach upset, and vomiting. Pet parents should make sure these plants are inaccessible locations.
Candles can capture a dog’s curiosity, leading them to investigate. If the canine knocks over a lit candle, the hot wax or flame could burn them. They could also accidentally start a fire in the house. In some cases, the candle fumes and smoke could worsen breathing issues in some dogs, leading to respiratory failure.
Air fresheners and potpourri can also cause problems for dogs. Many spray air fresheners contain ingredients that could trigger breathing issues. Dogs with allergies may also experience skin issues. Potpourri contains plant material and additives that can irritate the skin, mouth, and stomach. A dog may experience vomiting, diarrhea, appetite loss, and disorientation.
To protect their dogs, pet parents should:
Store candles in inaccessible locations.
Never leave lit candles unattended.
Consider an alternative to candles, such as a wax warmer.
Avoid using chemical aerosol air fresheners.
Place potpourri where dogs can’t reach it.
Many festive decorations require the use of electricity or batteries, as do holiday lights. Chewing on a plugged-in electrical cord puts a dog at risk of getting shocked. Biting on a battery could break it open, resulting in burns in the mouth and esophagus. Additionally, using décor as chew toys could lead to issues such as injuries and intestinal blockages.
Pet parents should keep all holiday décor out of reach of their dogs. They should also unplug decorations and lights when they aren’t home or when they go to bed.
Chocolate is one of the many harmful foods for dogs that pet parents may have around the holidays. It contains theobromine and caffeine, two compounds that dogs can’t metabolize as well as humans can, as well as high amounts of sugar. Dark chocolate, in particular, poses the greatest risk as it has the highest concentration of theobromine and caffeine.
Signs of chocolate poisoning may include:
Vomiting and diarrhea
Increased thirst (and more frequent urination)
Rapid heart rate
If a pet parent suspects their dog has eaten chocolate, they should seek veterinary attention immediately, even if there aren’t symptoms present at the time.
Other potentially harmful or toxic foods for dogs include:
Onions and garlic
Raw bread dough
Anything containing sugar or sugar alternatives (especially xylitol)
Pet parents should keep all food out of reach of their dogs, especially when it’s unattended. They may also want to designate a space for dogs to go while everyone eats and socializes. Having a safe space during the holidays can be especially helpful for anxious pets needing a place to rest and calm down.
Poinsettias are only one of the several holiday plants harmful to dogs. There are many other common decorative plants that could cause significant issues for pets if eaten, including:
Amaryllis: Also known as the Belladonna lily, the amaryllis can cause excessive drooling, digestive upset (vomiting and/or diarrhea), low blood pressure, and liver damage or failure in dogs.
Holly: The spiny leaves of the holly plant can harm a dog’s mouth, esophagus, and intestinal tract. The plant also contains compounds that could cause drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, and appetite loss.
Ivy: Ivy leaves contain compounds that can cause skin and mouth irritation. They may also trigger digestive issues, stomach pain, and appetite loss.
Mistletoe: In small quantities, this plant can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and drooling. If a dog consumes a larger amount, they may experience more severe issues, such as abnormal heart rate, low blood pressure, ataxia, seizures, and even death.
Lily: Many varieties of lilies can be harmful to dogs. Even those considered “safe” may cause gastrointestinal issues. Lilies are more dangerous for cats, so pet parents with felines should take extra care to ensure any varieties they bring into their homes are in safe, inaccessible locations.
It’s not uncommon for people to serve alcohol during their holiday parties. While many humans can enjoy it safely in moderation, even small amounts can be toxic to dogs. If they consume any, whether they get it from a glass, a spill, or a food item containing alcohol, they may experience significant issues such as weakness, coma, respiratory failure, or death.
Pet parents can help avoid alcohol poisoning by making sure they and their guests don’t leave any beverages or foods unattended (whether they contain alcohol or not). They should also make sure to immediately clean up spills.
The best way pet parents can protect their canines during the most festive season of the year is to know what holiday pet hazards exist within their home and take steps to avoid them. And if they suspect their dog got into something they shouldn’t, they should take action right away. Contacting 24/7 online veterinary care can guide people through an emergency and licensed professionals can advise what steps pet parents need to take next.
Fuzzy is here to offer additional holiday pet safety tips and offer recommendations for reducing pet stress when there’s so much going on. With a Fuzzy vet on call, pet parents can ensure that everyone, pets included, have a safe, happy, and healthy holiday season.