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By Dr. Blake Liebert

The holiday season is truly a special time of year. As we make plans to celebrate the season we need to consider the safety of our family pets. Some simple safety steps can make this a happy and healthy holiday season for our entire family.

Christmas Trees pose many potential problems for our family pets. Securely anchor your tree to keep it from falling. Tinsel is commonly ingested and may lead to severe digestive tract problems, including obstruction. Electrical cords should be covered and protected from chewing. And please keep your pets from drinking the water from the tree stand as stagnant water, many times with fertilizers, can cause gastrointestinal (GI) problems including vomiting and diarrhea.

Candles can cause burns, or be knocked over causing fires. Please use appropriate holders and do not leave them unattended. Potpourri contains oils and other toxins that can be harmful if ingested.

Decorative plants, while beautiful can be highly toxic when ingested. Many, including Holly, Mistletoe, Lilies, and Poinsettias can all have harmful effects and should be kept out of reach. Altering your pets’ diet with fatty, greasy, or spicy leftovers may cause GI upset. In some cases these treats may lead to more severe problems such as pancreatitis. Uncooked or undercooked meats can harbor bacteria, also causing GI disease.

Alcohol and tobacco can pose problems for everyone during the holidays. Pets should never consume alcohol as intoxication can have serious medical risks to pets. Clean up unattended glasses to avoid any accidental ingestion. Keep tobacco and nicotine products out of reach as well, as these may cause GI, neurologic, and cardiac problems if ingested.

Most people are aware of toxicities associated with chocolate, but many other holiday treats can have harmful effects as well. Grapes and raisins can be highly toxic to the kidneys. Uncooked yeast/bread dough can cause severe GI disease if ingested. Many common artificial sweeteners found in mints, gums, and candies, most notably Xylitol, can have serious medical complications if ingested. All these items should be avoided during the holidays.

As people come and go from your home, make sure to be aware of your pets. Cats and dogs may sneak out an open door and become lost or injured. Some pets may become fearful or anxious with excessive noise, activity, or with strangers. Take the the extra time to ensure your pet is comfortable, safe and accounted for.

Observing some simple pet safety tips we can make this season a safe and happy one for the entire family.

Happy Holidays.

Blake Liebert, DVM, is Chief of Staff at Muddy Creek Animal Care Center. Dr. Liebert is also a regular contributor for The Town Common, a local North Shore Massachusetts community newspaper.