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Published: Sunday, 12/15/2013

Seasonal decor adds dangers for pets


The holiday season brings the opportunity to be thankful for the pets that share our lives, but it also brings a whole host of dangers. Taking a few steps to keep them safe will help avoid the proverbial coal in the stocking.

Holiday decorations are often too tempting for pets to leave alone. Tinsel can be easily swallowed and create an especially dangerous bowel obstruction for cats and dogs. The electric cords from Christmas lights seem to hold some appeal as a chew toy and the resulting burns and organ failure from electric shock may take hours to appear. Take steps to keep tree decorations above pet level. Cord protectors are available at any hardware store.

Many of the decorative plants we adorn the house with are extremely hazardous. The berries and leaves from holly and the leaves of mistletoe are two of the more toxic holiday plants for pets. Amaryllis lilies can lead to kidney failure in cats. The sap from poinsettias is mildly irritating, but generally would cause nothing more than some irritation. The one holiday plant that is frequently overlooked when talking about toxic plants is the tree itself. The sap and needles can cause digestive upset, and if a large amount is consumed, obstruction or bowel perforation may result.

Dogs and occasionally cats getting into the holiday chocolates are a common call to veterinary offices this time of year. Dark chocolate contains the highest concentration of the compound theobromine that pets are sensitive to, so it takes a smaller amount relative to milk chocolate for symptoms to develop. White chocolate does not contain any theobromine, so except for some mild digestive upset, it is nontoxic. It only takes a second for a dog to gorge themselves, so be sure not leave the goodies where the pets can get to them.

Salt on sidewalks and driveways can cause some nasty chemical burns on a dog’s feet if it becomes lodged in the pads. Wiping a dog’s feet will avoid most problems, and use pet safe products whenever possible.

Questions for Dr. Gary Thompson can be emailed to askthevet@theblade.com or mailed to The Blade, Attn. Ask the Vet, 541 N. Superior St., Toledo, OH 43660. Dr. Thompson regrets that he cannot answer individual letters.

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