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Holiday Dangers for Your Dog

By: Dr. Amanda Landis-Hanna
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This time of year many households are decorating for the holidays.  For many it is a merry season, but pet parents may worry about the safety of their pets.  Safety is always a concern, so let’s take a look at some questions posed by readers.

Are poinsettias truly toxic?

The good news is that poinsettias have gotten a bad reputation.  According to ASPCA Poison Control Center, poinsettias have been repeatedly tested, and they have not been found to cause toxicity for dogs and cats.  They may cause gastrointestinal distress, vomiting, and diarrhea if the sap is ingested.

Are Christmas trees toxic?

Natural trees care not generally problematic.  If a dog spends time close to the tree, she is at risk for trauma to her eye by pine needles.  If she starts blinking frequently, or if her eye is watery, take her to the veterinarian, as eye trauma is very painful. 

Ingestion of pine needles can be a concern, since they can be irritating to the stomach.  In some cases dogs have eaten so many pine needles that the patient had to be hospitalized for treatment, since the needles obstructed the gastrointestinal system.  Ingestion of pinesap can cause vomiting or diarrhea.

What about Christmas tree water?

This question shows up every year on social media.  Christmas tree water generally has a large amount of sugars with a small amount of fertilizer added to it.  Some dogs and cats are attracted to the water because the sugars may smell sweet.  According to ASPCA Poison Control Center, Christmas tree water is considered non-toxic.  Bacterial growth may be a concern, but usually Christmas tree water is refreshed or replaced too quickly to allow bacterial growth.

I have a Christmas cactus…will it hurt my dog?

Similar to Christmas trees, the biggest risk factor for a problem with Christmas cactus lays in the possibility of trauma.  When the cactus blooms, some pets may become nosy, and risk trauma to the eye, nose, or mouth.  If they were to ingest the cactus, they may develop vomiting or diarrhea, in addition to the trauma from the needles.  In general it is a good idea to keep cacti where pets cannot reach.

What are the most common Christmas-time injuries?

This time of year emergency hospitals may be busy.  Electrocution (from holiday lights) is a large risk.  Extension cords and flashing lights may attract a curious dog or cat, which may chew on the cord.  Sudden respiratory distress is often the only symptom of electrocution.  If a pet is not breathing normally, call your veterinarian immediately.

Gastrointestinal distress is another common problem this time of year, for humans and pets.  Heavy meals, leftovers, and sweet treats may be present in the home.  If a pet gets into the trash can, put a note in the Voyce system so you can keep track of any possible problems.  I highly recommend a trash can with a lid; for many dogs removing the scent can help remove the impulse to explore.

Slipping on ice can be problematic throughout the winter.  A slip may be simple, or may lead to bruises, sprains, or even torn ligaments.  Unfortunately, if your pet slips while on a leash, you may fall too.  I recommend dog boots with traction to help prevent slips and injuries.  I also recommend wiping pets off after a walk or playing in the snow.  Wiping your pet off can help remove melted snow or salt, which can be irritating to your pet.

As we proceed through this cooler season I wish you and your pets the merriest of holidays!

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Posted on Dec 14, 2015 by VOYCE Health
Vets & Experts