Christmas is a potentially dangerous holiday for pets, unless owners are aware of the hazards that lurk in their homes.  Veterinarians extract the oddest objects from canine and feline stomachs this time of year!  And owners needn’t have emergency veterinary expenses if the following advice is heeded:

  • Instead of those flimsy metal hangars, use ribbon to tie ornaments to the tree.  Choose branches high and out of reach.
  • Strung lights and extension cords shock pets when chewed.  Keep these away from pups and kittens.
  • Garland and tinsel become obstructive balls in canine stomachs.  Keep them out of reach.
  • Consider artificial mistletoe, the real plant is toxic to animals.
  • Keep poinsettias out of reach or opt for fake plants.  These also are toxic to animals.
  • Keep an eye on lit candles and place them above wagging tails.  Scented candles, even unlit, can be dangerous if munched on.
  • Some pets may mistake the water-filled Christmas tree stand for a water bowl, so skip the addition of chemicals or aspirin to extend the life of your tree.
  • Tell guests:  Sorry, but our veterinarian forbids table scraps.  Severe digestive problems and pancreatitis are triggered by high-fat and high-protein foods.  Secure your kitchen garbage as well.
  • Keep all human foods out of reach, including the holiday roast or chocolates buried inside a gift.  Raisins, grapes and onions are also toxic to pets.
  • Dark chocolate is a people favorite but toxic to dogs.  Less than an ounce of baking chocolate can kill a small dog.  Four to eight ounces can kill a dog the size of a Labrador Retriever.
  • Milk chocolate is also toxic for dogs, though it contains less theobromine than dark chocolate.  Four to ten ounces of milk chocolate can be deadly to a small dog.
  • Don’t give dogs any bones from the holiday turkey or ham.  Splintered bones can stick in the throat or tear up the stomach.
  • The holiday hustle and bustle not only stresses people, but also some animals.  Try to give your pets their normal amount of attention.  And when the party becomes too loud, or when you use party-poppers or noise makers, set aside a quiet retreat for your pets.
  • Don’t teach your pets to unwrap gifts, as they may try to unwrap everyone’s gifts from that point on.  And when guests place a gift under your tree, ask them if it contains anything harmful to animals.
  • Escape artists may slip through open doors as guests come and go.  Alert guests to keep an eye out, and make sure your pet is wearing an ID tag and microchipped.
  • During cold weather ask your veterinarian if your pet’s health is up to outdoor living or extended outdoor visits.  Provide plenty of (unfrozen) water, shelter against the wind, and thick bedding.
  • Winter brings dry skin, so bathe your dog only when necessary.  Fatty-acid supplements (like fish oil) may improve their skin and coats.
  • Brush your pets often to remove dead skin and especially matted hair, which diminishes insulation.
  • Continue to use heartworm and flea preventives 12 months of the year!  Our mild winters usually don’t kill hibernating bugs and parasites.

Among all the cautions about what not to do around your pets, the greatest gift you can give them this season is the time you share together.

And if you are travelling this year remember that we can board your pets here at the Arlington Animal Hospital. 

Have a very Merry Christmas!

Dr. Bonnie


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