Last Minute Holiday Tips to Keep Pets Safe

By: Jo Marshall, CVT
Staff Certified Veterinary Technician

Holiday Christmas Dog and TreeAs a veteran of many holiday phone shifts here at Pet Poison Helpline®, I can tell you that this will likely be our busiest week of the 2013. One would not think that this would be the case at an animal poison control center, but it seems that our 4-legged friends can find this time of year as stressful as we do and land themselves on the naughty list and in some potentially very dangerous situations.

So here are some of the things that I have learned while working the holidays at Pet Poison Helpline®:

When you have guests in your home, keep in mind that purses, and backpacks, and occasionally coat pockets can contain gum or  mints that can contain xylitol (this can result in a drop in blood sugar and potentially, liver failure), along with  over-the-counter and/or prescription medications that may be harmful to your pets. It is well worth taking a few minutes to secures all jackets, purses, and backpacks in a room or closet that pets will have no access to during your holiday gathering. Luggage is another common way that we can see pets have access to medications that they normally do not have access to. Dogs and cats alike chew open baggies and pill case that may be in luggage. Once again, store luggage closed or behind closed doors. The same is true if you are the one packing for or returning from a trip. Keep medication stored safely, don’t put it in the luggage until you are ready to close it up and make sure that it is the first thing that you take out when you unpack.

Some foods that may be toxic to your pets include raisins, grapes, chocolates; yeast bread dough, macadamia nuts, garlic and onions are a few that can be very concerning.  Don’t forget alcoholic beverages! Both dogs and cats will lap up the spirits of the holiday from a cup that has been set down. But our heavy hitter during the Christmas season is chocolate! When I checked our call volume for today, over 30% of our calls involved chocolate of some form. We are busy baking and have cocoa, semi-sweet chocolate chips and dipping chocolates out and available. Not to mention the bowl of chocolate truffles on the table for your guests!  Chocolate can affect both the central nervous system and cardiovascular system and can be very dangerous to your pets.

Gifts are another source of potential toxicity. Once again, chocolate is the heavy hitter here! We wrap food gifts to give to visiting family and friends or guests arrive with gifts and these are placed under the tree. Most dogs can pick out that wrapped box of chocolates in under 30 seconds (they have an awesome sense of smell)! The gift wrapping may slow them down a little, but it sure does not stop them from eating the entire box! We frequently hear about fruitcakes (that may be chockfull of nuts, raisins and potentially soaked in alcohol) being ingested from a gift wrapped package under the tree. These can be disastrous exposures with raisins resulting in possible renal failure.

Hopefully, these timely tips will help you enjoy this holiday season and keep your furry family healthy! Needless to say, we will be all hands on deck 24/7, if you need us!