Pet Columns, Office of Public Engagement, College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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The Holiday Naughty and Nice List for Keeping Pets Safe


Pet Column for the week of December 9, 2013

Related information:

Related site - Chicago Animal ER from the University of Illinois

[Holiday pup]
Pets can enjoy the holidays, with proper precautions.

Office of Public Engagement
2001 S. Lincoln Ave.
Urbana, Illinois 61802
Phone: 217/333-2907

Holidays wouldn’t be the same without festive decorations and treats. Just make sure your holiday fun poses no health and safety threats to your pets.

Dr. Donna Jacobsen, a veterinarian who provides emergency care at the University of Illinois Chicago Center for Veterinary Medicine, located in Chicago’s Near West Side neighborhood, puts the following items on the “naughty list”:

  • Tinsel, bows, and curling ribbon – Some animals, especially cats, love to eat these objects. Unfortunately, tinsel and such can become stuck in the intestinal tract and require surgical removal.
  • Chocolate – Everyone loves chocolate, including your dogs. Be sure to keep all chocolates out of reach, because eating chocolate can cause a range of problems for your dog, from increased heart rate and agitation/hyperexcitability to seizures and death, in severe cases.
  • Light strands – Both cats and dogs have been known to chew on electrical cords, so be sure to keep these away from your pet. An electrical shock can result in severe oral burns, fluids in the lungs, and even death.
  • Ornaments – That beautiful glass ornament looks just like a tennis ball to Fido and, if eaten, can cause a lot of trouble. It’s much easier on everyone to keep the pets far from the tree and other ornaments than to deal with the problems that can arise.
  • Plants – Plants and flower arrangements should also be kept out of your pet’s reach. Some plants, such as poinsettias, cause minor gastrointestinal irritation, but others can be highly toxic. Lilies, for example, can result in acute kidney failure in cats.
  • People treats – You may know better than to share your holiday feast with your pets, but your guests may not. Fruitcake is a no-no for dogs since grapes/raisins are toxic. And while people may enjoy a glass of champagne to celebrate the New Year, giving pets alcohol of any kind is never a good idea.

If your pet gets exposed to any of the above, contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435. Note that fees may apply.

Keeping pets safe doesn’t mean being a holiday Grinch, though. Dr. Jacobsen provides her “nice list” of fun and safe ways to treat your animal companion this season.
  • Dog cookies: buy them or make them yourself
  • Ice cream treats for dogs: available commercially or make your own
  • A fancy new collar
  • A new toy
  • A comfy pet bed
  • Time and attention with the family