Yule plants, food pose perils to pets
While pleasing to the tongue and to the eye, holiday treats and decorations can be dangerous, even lethal to pets.
Plants such as mistletoe, holly, and poinsettia are toxic when consumed by animals, but not as perilous as those boxes of cocoa-flavored candies.
“Plants aren’t much of a problem,” said Hank Kostecki, a veterinarian at South Tahoe Veterinary Hospital. “(Pets are) slightly more likely to get chocolate toxicity because there is more of it lying around. It’s fairly toxic. An average-sized dog would succumb to 8 ounces, maybe 4, depending on individual sensitivity.”
Dogs are more likely to get sick as a result of holiday mischief than cats, according to Carl Kelly, a veterinarian at Alpine Round Hill Animal Clinic.
“Cats are a lot more finicky eaters,” Kelly said. “They don’t get into stuff as much as dogs. It is conceivable that they could get sick on something but it’s rare. The problem is usually dogs. They’ll eat almost anything.”
Kelly said table scraps and garbage are the biggest contributors to barkers’ bellyaches.
“The main problem with the holidays is turkey bones and dogs getting into the garbage because of all the holiday foods around,” he said. “It can make them deathly sick. What we see most of the time is dogs that have gotten into the garbage. I’ve seen dogs die from eating a lot of ham. They can get pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas. It can become very inflamed and release toxins that can be life threatening.”
During self-indulgent moments of holiday gluttony, pet owners may feel guilty their dogs cannot partake in the feast, according to Kelly, who offered dog owners a piece of advice.
“Keep the garbage locked up and don’t feed your dog a bunch of treats just because it’s the holidays,” he said. “It’s better not to feed the dog table scraps, period, but if you’re going to give them something, give them vegetables, something that’s not so rich. Stay away from fats, especially. Fats are the hardest thing to digest and probably cause the most problems.”
Kathay Lovell, a dog breeder and trainer, said a good way to beat pet-related holiday guilt is to get dogs a little gift, rather than feeding them human munchies.
“If you want to treat your pets during the holidays, get them appropriate gifts from the vets or the pet stores,” she said. “If you want to do something special, that’s what you should do. That way, you won’t jeopardize the health and welfare of the dog. All of the vets have dog food and cookie substitutes and fun things to keep them busy.”
The following is a list of toxic or dangerous holiday items, according to the National Animal Poison Control Center:
– Toxic plants include: mistletoe, holly, poinsettia and Christmas greens such as juniper, cedar, pine and fir.
– Some dangerous decorations: Christmas lights, angel hair, Styrofoam, tinsel and ornaments.
– Other harmful items: chocolate, disk batteries, adhesives such as Super Glue, paints and toys with small parts.
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After a period of dry, warm weather, winter returns this week to Lake Tahoe.