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Originally published December 18, 2013 at 4:01 PM | Page modified December 18, 2013 at 4:20 PM

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Safety tips to keep your pets safe during the holidays

Learn how you can enjoy your pet through the holiday by keeping the animal safe — and out of the veterinary emergency room.

Seattle Times staff

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Nothing can spoil holiday good cheer like an emergency visit to a veterinary clinic to save a pet from a not-so-happy holiday disaster.

“Veterinarians often see an increase in the number of emergency calls during the holiday season. Whether it’s exposure to chocolate or fatty foods, or pets injured through exposure to festive decorations such as electric cords, ornaments, tinsel, etc., the holidays can present hazards for pets,” said Dr. Clark Fobian, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

Chocolate, for example, is an essential part of the holidays for many people, but it is important that it be kept away from pets.

“The most important way you can enjoy your pet through the holiday is by providing oversight and supervision so that they are not exposed to foods, decorations, strange people, or other things that can cause a disruption or an upsetting trip to an emergency clinic,” he said.

Here are some AVMA holiday safety tips:

• Don’t feed dogs and cats table scraps and don’t allow a family dog to sit under the table during meals where children may slip them food. Gravy, meat fat and poultry skin can cause life-threatening conditions like pancreatitis and gastrointestinal problems. Bones can splinter and create bowel obstructions.

• Be wary of holiday decorations; pets often consume them. For example, cats sometimes consume tinsel, which can cause an intestinal blockage serious enough to require surgery.

• Don’t let your pets climb the Christmas tree. If the tree falls over, your pet could be injured. Consider tying the tree to the ceiling or a door frame using fishing line to secure it.

• Don’t give your pets chocolate. It contains theobromine, which is toxic to dogs and cats. The darker the chocolate (baking chocolate being the darkest) the more dangerous it is to pets.

• Be wary of baked goods and sweets around pets. Not only are they often too rich for pets, but an artificial sweetener often found in baked goods, candy and chewing gum, xylitol, has been linked to liver failure and death in dogs.

• Flowers, table centerpieces, fireplace adornments and other festive plants are another common holiday feature that can result in an emergency veterinary visit. Amaryllis, mistletoe, balsam, pine, cedar, and holly are on the list of common holiday plants that can be dangerous and even poisonous to pets who decide to eat them, and poinsettias can be troublesome as well.

• Unplug decorations while you’re not around. Cats and dogs are often tempted to chew electrical cords.

Here are links to some vet resources, alerts, and information for the holidays:

Household hazards brochure

Pet Food & Product Recalls/Alerts webpage

Household Hazards and Poisons for Your Pets video


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