So how does your home look today?
If you are lucky, the tree is still standing, unwrapped gifts are piled up neatly beneath the branches, leftovers are in the ‘fridge, and the trash has been taken out to its proper receptacle.
But all around that standing tree and neat pile of gifts lie a maze of wrapping paper, clothing tags, cardboard boxes, silver wrappers from chocolate kisses and plastic wrappers from candy canes (and probably a handful of half-eaten candy canes and kisses tossed in there somewhere)?
Beginning in fall, treats abound in our homes: from Halloween with all its glorious preparations and leftovers, to stuffing ourselves on Mass Turkey Homicide day, with more leftovers for days on end, to holiday parties and goodies as gifts and yes, even more leftovers around Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and New Year’s.
Oh the temptation to overindulge. But January is coming and we all run to the gym to take care of business.
But what about our pets who must smell the chocolate Santa’s hanging in our stockings and the nougat wrapped up in a present for the boss and yes, the scraps hanging out in the trash can under the sink. Don’t forget the peppermint candy canes hanging around the window.
Hazards abound as we get busy, full and yes, perhaps careless as our schedules and eating habits change.
So here’s a quick list of reminders, courtesy of Dr. Justine Lee, from the Pet Health Network, for pet owners in the busyness of our season of joy.
1) Before leaving open packages beneath a holiday tree or on a coffee table in the family room for company to share, consider the ingredients. Remember, dogs can smell parts per trillion with that super-sensitive snout, so chocolate and chocolate-covered anything is not safe. Consider the contents: R rated? (R-rated = Rover safe!)
Chocolate is not R-rated. It’s poisonous.
And, it’s likely other ingredients in that delicacy might prove dangerous also. The Pet Poison Hotline lists caffeine, macadamia nuts, and raisins as leading to renal failure, pancreatitis, temporary paralysis and other maladies.
2) Desserts, even if sugar-free, are a threat. Fake sugars (xylitol) can spike critters’ insulin, leading to a low blood-sugar reaction and possible liver failure. And many contain alcohol (tira misu, Panettone, fruitcake), which leads to alcohol poisoning, liver failure, in addition to problems from the canned fruit.
3) Plants! Those beautiful poinsettia plants aren’t as big a threat as many think because they don’t carry much scent. But lilies … those buds are the real danger. For our feline friends, ingesting even 1-2 petals or even a bit of pollen, can lead to acute kidney failure.
4) Lucky? Smooching under the mistletoe is sweet, just hang it high. And don’t let your critters kiss IT, let them kiss YOU. It is mildly toxic, especially if it is not fresh (e.g., cut right out of the tree). If you purchase it, aim to select American mistletoe, rather than European mistletoe: it’s less toxic to our companion animals, according to veterinarians at the Pet Poison Control.
5) Naughty? Nice! Now for the decorations. People who choose to have companion animals simply cannot avoid certain, um, scents in the home. So we have to compensate. Air fresheners, scented candles, simmering potpourris are great options but quite dangerous to our critters: ingesting a mouthful of leaves, cones and twigs, especially for cats, not only can cause a chemical burn in a sensitive mouth, but all the way down the esophagus. Scented candles often resemble food items and therefore tempt canines. Spice went crazy for a mango-scented candle immediately; up, up and away it went! Be careful with your choices and think who might act naughty!
For additional tips on continuing holiday safety or safe holiday cleanup, consult the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals holiday-safety page.
As always, keep your veterinarian of record’s phone number posted on your refrigerator as well as an emergency veterinary service. If you think your pet(s) have ingested something poisonous and it is after hours, consider calling Pet Poison Hotline. The service is available 24/7 at (800) 213-6680.
If you think one of your critters has dug into a toxic substance, immediately contact your local veterinarian or veterinary emergency hospital. Consider a consultation with the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC): Call (888) 426-4435.