The holidays will be upon us before we know it, so it’s a good time to familiarize yourself with some holiday tips and hazards when it comes to your pets. Nobody wants to spend their holiday worrying at the vet’s office or emergency clinic because a curious pet ate something dangerous, or injured himself. The following are some situations to watch for that may pose a hazard to your pet.

Tangled up in tinsel

Tinsel is very attractive to pets, especially cats. The shiny, dangling decoration reflects light and shimmers in the slightest draft – the perfect eye-catching enticement. While it isn’t toxic, it can choke your pet and easily bunch up and cause serious intestinal damage if swallowed. Pets with these “linear foreign bodies,” as they’re called, quickly become ill with signs including vomiting, diarrhea, depression, belly pain, and sometimes fever.

Holiday fashion faux pas

You may be tempted to fashion your pet with a decorative ribbon “collar.” But, beware that this could become a choking hazard. It’s best to quickly discard ribbons and bows wrapped around holiday gifts so that your curious companions won’t be enticed to chew or swallow them, and keep an eye on those ribbon-tied gifts under the tree. Like tinsel, ingested ribbon can cause a choking hazard and can ultimately twist throughout the intestines, leading to emergency surgery and possible death.

Ornament ordeal

Colorful tree ornaments can draw the attention of a curious kitty. Be sure to place glass, aluminum and paper ornaments high up on the tree where batting paws can’t reach them. Pets can chew and swallow these fragile objects; sharp, broken pieces can lacerate your pet’s mouth, and can also create a choking hazard.

Wrapped in lights

Twinkling, shiny holiday lights may be another source of danger to your curious pets. Do you have a pet that likes to chew? If so, beware of where you place electrical cords and strings of lights. Electrical shock can occur when a pet chomps down on an electrical cord, and may result in burns, difficulty breathing, loss of consciousness, and even death. Call a veterinarian immediately if your pet has been injured by an electrical shock. Treatment is most effective if begun soon after the shock. Check your holiday lights for signs of fraying or chewing, and use a grounded three-prong extension cord as a safety precaution.

If you have candles on display, place them in a hard-to-reach spot so that your pets can’t access them. Not only can pets seriously burn themselves on the flame or with hot wax, but knocking over candles creates a fire hazard.

Oh Christmas Tree

Securely anchor your Christmas tree so that it can’t fall over, causing possible injury to your pet (especially if he or she is trying to climb it!). Cover the tree’s water source, as stagnant tree water is a breeding ground for bacteria and your pet could end up with nausea or diarrhea should he decide to drink it.

Paw-liday treats

Holiday time usually means edible treats, and lots of them! Unfortunately some of the most popular goodies, such as chocolate and nuts, can be extremely toxic or even fatal to pets. Give your dog or cat only treats that you’re sure are safe for animals.

Poisonous plants

Acquaint yourself with which holiday plants are toxic to pets. Lilies pose the most serious threat and should never be in a household with cats; even a single leaf from any lily variety is lethal. Pine needles, when eaten, can cause vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy and posterior weakness. Holly can also cause severe vomiting and diarrhea, and eating mistletoe is even more dangerous, resulting in difficulty breathing, hallucinations and even death. Poinsettia sap can cause irritation to the mouth and stomach, and sometimes vomiting if a large quantity has been consumed.

If you have pets in your home or visiting for the holidays, particularly curious ones, take the necessary precautions during the holidays to help ensure that you and your family will enjoy a happy and healthy holiday season.

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