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Keeping pets safe during the holiday season

Posted at 8:56 AM, Dec 14, 2021

GREAT FALLS — Seasonal threats among pets are common, but veterinarians urge people to keep an eye out for things that may harm their furry friend.

Veterinarian Michelle Richardson from Big Sky Animal Medical Center talked about the most common seasonal issues they see.

“A majority of what we see is upset stomachs,” she said. “It's the classic dog 'that got into the holiday chocolates or the peppermint bark'.”

pet safety

Aside from the edible things making their stomachs uneasy there is also an uptick in unconventional items getting the better of pets' natural curiosity.

“They are going to get into things, even if you don't think they could get into them, they will,” said Richardson. “We will see dogs come in with pieces of ornaments, tinsel, and alcohol. You just have to watch them closely.”

From the Humane Society of the US website:

Skip the table scrap snacks: Foods not to feed pets

  • Bones: Bones easily splinter and can cause serious health problems (even death) for your pet.
  • Candy: Particularly chocolate—which is toxic to dogs, cats and ferrets—and any candy containing the toxic sweetener Xylitol.  
  • Chives
  • Citrus and pits: Keep foods containing citric acid away from your pets. Foods such as cherry pits, peach pits and apple seeds contain essential oils that have the ability to cause irritations, blockages and even central nervous system depression if a significant amount is ingested.
  • Coffee: Grounds, beans and chocolate-covered espresso beans.
  • Eggs (raw or undercooked) 
  • Fish (raw or undercooked)
  • Garlic
  • Grapes and raisins: These can cause kidney problems.
  • Leaves and stems: From vegetables such as tomatoes. 
  • Nuts
  • Onions, as well as onion flakes and powder

Deck the halls: Holiday decorations and pets

  • Christmas trees and holiday greens: Make sure your dogs or cats do not chew on limbs or droppings from the tree. Ingested pine needles could get lodged in the intestinal tract, puncturing the lining or bunching together and causing an intestinal obstruction.
  • Water base: The water base of a Christmas tree may contain dangerous chemicals that could harm your pet.
  • Christmas lights and tinsel: Position your tree's lights and tinsel away from the bottom of the tree where pets can reach them. Some pets climb up or into trees and can even knock them over.
  • Candles: Don’t leave candles unattended. Pets may accidentally knock them over and spill wax or start a fire.
  • Firestarter logs: Dogs that enjoy chewing should steer clear; these logs contain sawdust and paraffin which can cause an irritated stomach or even intestinal blockage when ingested.
  • Plants: A number of seasonal plants are poisonous to pets if nibbled or eaten, including ivy, holly, mistletoe and poinsettias.