Christmas Hazards for Pets
‘Tis the season to be jolly, Fa-la-la-la-la, darn it, Bruno, get out of there!
That’s most pet owners during Christmas. For some reason, the season brings out some crazy energy in pets. Perhaps, it could be the tree, the lights, the treats, or the people trooping in and out of the house getting them all riled up.
For cats, they are super curious animals, and the added decorations could lure them in. For dogs, their sense of smell could go into overdrive with the special meals. Either way, Christmas can be a dangerous time for cats and dogs.
What are the likely hazards your pet could face during Christmas?
Just about anything. From the expected to the downright ridiculous, let's see 12 possible Christmas hazards that could hurt your pet starting on the first day of Christmas:
1. Christmas trees
What’s Christmas without a tree beautifully decorated in your living room? Unfortunately, this magnificent fixture could be potentially dangerous to your pets.
Firstly, dogs could see it as an endless supply of sticks for fetch and go crazy around it. If it’s an evergreen tree, chewing or eating the needles could cause them to get stuck in your dog’s intestine and may require some type of surgery to get out.
As for cats, the sight of the tree might give them ideas to try and use it as a scratching post or a hiding spot. Their weight could cause the tree to topple with them on it.
Either way, keep your pets out of the tree or create barriers to make it a bit safer. Consider using a hook or some type of solid stand to secure the tree. This eliminates the chances of it falling.
2. Plants and toxins
The Christmas theme isn't complete without a few holiday plants placed in strategic positions around the house. Also, this health hazard list is incomplete without them. Some, if not most, of popular the Christmas plants can be hazardous to pets. These plants include:
- Poinsettia – This can irritate the mouth and stomach of pets causing them to drool, vomit, and become ill.
- Holly – While this isn't very toxic, ingestion, especially of the berries could lead to vomiting, diarrhoea, and nausea.
- Mistletoe – You can hang up your mistletoe and kiss underneath it, but be sure your pets don't get a hold of the leaves or berries. This can cause anything from a mild stomach upset to cardiovascular problems.
- Ivy – Often used to make gorgeous wreaths, but it can cause a stomach upset when ingested or irritate the skin with prolonged skin contact.
- Christmas tree water – Water from live Christmas trees can upset the stomach when ingested, especially when they contain tree sap, fertilizer or other additives. Even if they don't, this water promotes the growth of bacteria leading to gastrointestinal issues when consumed by pets.
Refer to this link for a full list of poisonous plants for pets by the ASPCA.
As you’re decorating your tree with some pretty ornaments, your dog will likely come around to get a hold of them. Cats are a bit more reserved. They will probably wait till you’re done hanging them before sneaking in for a closer look.
If glass ornaments are broken, they pose a risk for paws. If shards are ingested, the pieces could cut the tissues of the gastrointestinal tract or the mouth. Fragile ornaments should be hung out of the way to avoid the risk of them breaking. If you must hang some, ensure the stronger ones are hung on the lower branches in case they get bumped.
You thought ornaments and shiny balls were attractive to pets? Wait till you see how they get around tinsel. From tinsel wreaths to even tinsel Christmas trees, there are countless uses. Unfortunately, your pets also have some ideas on the subject, since it looks like an incredibly shiny, shimmery toy. They start by playing around with them, and this often ends in them moving in for a taste, which puts them at risk of swallowing some.
One of two things could happen. The first is they poop out some shiny flecks a couple of days later. It could also get stuck in their intestinal tract. This can present with mild symptoms or cause some serious discomfort and injury. Tinsel belongs on trees and walls, not your pet's gut. Keep tinsel far away.
Twinkle twinkle…stop right there! Lights are a huge part of the holiday. Sadly, they come with electric cords.
An electric cord equals electricity, which equals possible electrocution. Pets could also get tangled in the cords and are at risk of strangulation. Scary, huh? For them, though, they just see a beautiful new thing and can't wait to play with it.
Getting all tangled up in the cords aside, pets are likely to chew on the cord, thereby sustaining some degree of electrical burns. Also, it could lead to a build-up of fluid within their lungs resulting in some cardiac and pulmonary issues with some serious consequences.
They could also swallow batteries, which pose lethal threats to any living thing if ingested due to the acid and mercury inside.
You probably don't even need candles to brighten up your space, but they contribute greatly to the ambience and spirit of the season. However, numerous hazards can result from them. If placed close to your pets’ reach, it can burn their paws or noses.
Not to mention the fire hazards! A lit candle toppled over by a mischievous dog or curious cat could cause a fire. Plus, there's a lot of flammable material in the living room this time of year, so, you could end up with a serious fire on your hands.
If you must use candles, get the correct holders for them and place on stable surfaces that aren’t easily accessible to pets. Otherwise, replace candles entirely with some tiny battery operated lights. Better safe than sorry, right?
This is often in use a lot during winter and can be found in snow globes. They can be quite useful, but deadly for pets. It’s especially dangerous because it has a pleasant taste that can make any pet come back for more after a taste. Unfortunately, even just small amounts (1 teaspoon) can be fatal for cats. Dogs can handle a bit more, but only just a little bit. Four teaspoons can be dangerous for a 10-pound dog.
To prevent this, ensure you clean up any antifreeze spills before your pet licks it up. Also, store it in containers with tight lids and out of reach (or jump). You’re better off doing away with antifreeze or replacing it with safer alternatives such as propylene glycol.
You probably already know that chocolate is bad for dogs and cats. It’s the theobromine in chocolate that’s yummy but poisonous for pets. It’s also a stimulant which can lead to hyperstimulation of the central nervous system and heart of your beloved pet. Symptoms include hyperactivity, seizures, increased heart rate, abnormal heart rhythms, and cardiac arrest.
It’s Christmas, even if you don't use chocolate, chances are you will receive one or two treats or baked goods containing them.
Here's how you can help keep your pet safe -
- Don't leave baked goods out.
- Pay attention to what people offer your pet and what your pets are eating.
- Be extra careful when baking.
- Instruct your kids, family, and friends not to offer some chocolate to your pet out of ‘love’.
It's not just chocolate bars you have to worry about – chocolate chips, M&Ms, and other chocolate treats can be dangerous for pets.
No one in their right mind would pour a glass of champagne for their dog or cat, but that doesn't take away from the fact that alcohol is a real hazard to pets. Have you forgotten? Lots of baked goods and food are prepared with some alcohol. And what about eggnog? This often contains alcohol as well. Just know that it wouldn't be too far-fetched to end up with a tipsy pet this season.
Beyond that, alcohol is toxic and can depress the nervous system of pets. This can make them drowsy, confused, unable to control their bowels, and even likely lead to loss of consciousness or worse, death. This occurs when the more severe symptoms are not treated immediately. Just keep Mister Whisker’s whiskers out of the beer or cocktail this season…and every other season.
These make an appearance a lot during the holiday season. Be it mince pies, fruit cakes, or Christmas pudding, you'll be sure to cut into them and see the lovely raisins staring right back at you. Cut a slice and enjoy. Just don't cut any for your cat or dog. Trust us, they're not going to enjoy it or at least not for long.
Raisins are toxic for dogs and can cause kidney failure. Do you think raisins are bad? What about chocolate-covered raisins? These are twice the trouble.
Asides from raisins, other dried vine fruits such as sultanas and currants could be potentially harmful as well.
11. Artificial sweeteners
You’re trying to be healthy and cut back on the calories. So, instead of sugar, you decide to go for xylitol. Good for you...not so good for your pet. It’s especially dangerous for dogs.
It can significantly reduce their blood sugar as quickly as 30 minutes after ingestion. Symptoms such as vomiting, lethargy, weakness, and seizures are common here. It can also progress to liver damage.
Keep an eye out for xylitol-containing food and sweets, and be sure to keep your dog as far away from them as possible.
12. Macadamia nuts
These nuts are great and they often make a special appearance during Christmas. From fudgy macadamia nut Christmas cookies to Christmas spiced macadamia nuts, you have a variety of recipes you can come up with here. But not for your pets.
With or without their shells, these nuts can pose a threat to your pets. With the shells, they cannot obstruct the intestine. Without shells, they’re toxic to dogs. They cause limb weakness, commonly observed in the hind legs, giving them a wobbly appearance. Also, lethargy, vomiting, and tremors can be seen here.
Keep nuts away from your pets this Christmas. Not just macadamia nuts, even walnuts and pecans can block their intestine, creating various issues for your pets.
Keep these in mind; the 12 hazards that could ruin Christmas for you and your furry little friends.
We’ve given you a few of ideas on how to tackle them, but here are some general tips you can adopt to stay safe and keep your pets healthy this season.
- Educate yourself - Giving your pets the wrong Christmas treat is one way to innocently hurt them. You don't intend to do it, but good intentions don't count here. Find out what they shouldn't eat and make sure everyone knows that pets stick to pet food.
- Pet-proof the house - Just as a new parent child-proofs the house, you should do the same during this period. Secure the Christmas tree, use alternatives to toxic products or plants. Just get rid of anything that could potentially harm them.
- Be prepared – No one wants to think their beloved pets could get hurt but it could happen. You should have your vet’s contact ready in case of emergencies. Also, have the location and contact information of a 24/7 emergency vet clinic, just in case.
- Get pet insurance – Again, you don't want to have to use this, but if you ever need it, you'll be glad you got it. On average, the cost of UK pet insurance is about £274 per year. While that of cats is around £117 per year. This is for coverage worth about £2,000. With this, you’re sure of coverage for veterinary bills. Most pet insurance also goes beyond that to include loss and theft of pet, treatment for behavioural issues, liability, and death.
Ultimately, while you are decking your halls with boughs of holly and filling up your house with different aromas and flavours, think about your pets and ensure you keep them safe in your home.