Sherry Davis

Friday, Dec 20 2013 04:00 PM

SHERRY DAVIS: Holiday safety advice for pets bears repeating

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    By Felix Adamo/ The Californian

    Columnist Sherry Davis.

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By Sherry Davis

It happens every year. I start out hesitant to write about holiday safety for pets, reasoning that most pet owners have been bombarded with this information from so many sources that they probably have the do's and don'ts down pat.

Then I remind myself of how many first-time dog owners I work with each year and know that if it prevents just one puppy from becoming ill or hospitalized, the material is worth repeating.

And again and again, because according to Ahna Brutlag, DVM and associate director of veterinary services at the Pet Poison Helpline, "Every year calls to the Pet Poison Helpline increase substantially because certain foods and items that bring holiday cheer to our homes can have the opposite effect on pets when ingested, making them very sick."

Here are some cautionary pet safety tips for the holidays, including some that are relevant all year long.

Christmas trees: Trees should be well-anchored to prevent their toppling over on curious pets. Don't allow pets to ingest stagnant tree water; it is a breeding ground for bacteria and can cause vomiting and/or diarrhea. The easiest way to keep young puppies out from under or chewing on the limbs of a tree is to place a wire puppy pen around it.

Glass and plastic ornaments: Shards from ornaments can damage a pet's mouth or feet, and swallowed ornaments can cause a blockage and a trip to the emergency room.

Tinsel: When ingested, it can wrap around the tongue or anchor itself in the stomach, making passage through the intestines impossible. When the intestines contract the tinsel can slowly cut through the tissue and cause severe damage to the intestinal tract. Ditto for ribbon, yarn and thread.

Wires and batteries: A wire can deliver a potentially lethal electric shock and a punctured battery can cause burns to the mouth or esophagus.

Human food: Chocolate and cocoa, candy and sugarless gum containing xylitol, yeasty bread dough, leftover fatty meat scraps, fruit cakes with raisins and currants must be kept away from pets. (The fruitcake threat is compounded if the cake is soaked in run or another alcohol.)

Drinks: Alcohol poisoning can result in a dangerous drop in blood sugar, blood pressure and body temperature, leading to seizures and respiratory failure.

Plants: According to the Pet Poison Helpline, the toxicity of poinsettias has been exaggerated over the years and if they are ingested their white sap only causes minor mouth or stomach irritation. But since a reaction may be worse for some dogs than others, it's still best to keep them out of pets' reach.

Christmas cactus can cause vomiting and diarrhea, and spiny leaves of the Christmas or English holly can cause irritation and damage to pets' stomachs and intestines.

Liquid potpourri: These contain cationic detergents and essential oils that if consumed can cause sever chemical burns in the mouth, fever, difficulty breathing and tremors. Reactions are more dramatic in cats than in dogs, but still should be considered dangerous. Likewise, pets should never be left unattended with burning candles.

Ladies' handbags: If you're hosting a party, your guests' personal items may be stored during the festivities in another room where a curious cat or dog may wander unseen to investigate. Handbags or coat pockets may contain many poisonous items such as prescription medications, pain medications (Tylenol, Advil, Aleve), sugarless chewing gum, asthma inhalers, cigarettes, coins and hand sanitizers.

This holiday season keep your pets safe by downloading the Pet Poison Help iPhone app for $1.99, which contains an extensive database of more than 200 foods, drugs, household cleaning supplies and plants that are potentially dangerous to pets. If you think your pet has ingested something harmful, take action immediately by calling your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline (800-213-6680), which is available 24 hours, seven days a week for pet owners ($39 per incident).

Sherry Davis is a dog trainer/ owner of CSI 4 K9s. Email her at These are her opinions, not necessarily The Californian's.

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