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Christmas decorations pose threats to animals
By Dr. Walter Mullen
MSU College of Veterinary Medicine
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Pet owners need to realize that Christmas decorations attract more than human eyes during the holidays, and many of those items can pose hazards to curious animals.
When new plants are brought into the home, they can interest a mischievous pet. Unfortunately, some festive holiday plants can poison pets.
Several common holiday plants that are toxic to pets are poinsettias, mistletoe, holly and lilies. While plant ingestions usually involve small amounts of plant material and result in only short-term nausea, pets that consume large amounts may require aggressive therapy.
Eating lilies can cause severe kidney disease and is even capable of causing kidney failure. Although the Christmas cactus is generally not very toxic to pets, it may cause some pets to vomit. Keep plants where pets cannot reach them and clean up any leaves or berries that fall from the plants before pets find them.
Holiday ornaments and decorations can be another source of holiday pet mischief. Cats in particular may take interest in ornaments hanging from Christmas tree limbs. Delicate or glass ornaments can result in injury should they be chewed on or fall and break into small pieces. Pets chewing on ornaments can accidentally swallow the metal hook that attaches the ornament to the tree and could require surgery as a result.
Tinsel (icicles) and garland can present dangers to pets. When pets swallow strand-like decorations, the material may remain in the intestines for extended periods of time and result in abdominal pain. The material eventually can cut into the intestines. Some of these foreign materials may result in an intestinal obstruction. Surgical intervention is required when a pet’s body is unable to pass ingested items. Ingestion of strand-like materials is more common in cats than in dogs.
Chewing strings of lights can result in the same problems, but with the added potential complication of electrocution if the lights are still plugged in.
Playful animals may try to climb the Christmas tree. If the tree is not secured, rowdy play may topple it, injuring pets and humans and damaging the home.
Be sure pets do not have access to Christmas tree water during the holidays. Stagnant Christmas tree water might contain preservatives or contaminants that can be unhealthy for pets to drink.
Remembering and preventing some of the common potential hazards can help make the holidays a much happier time with friends and family. While veterinary emergency services are available in most areas, evaluating your home environment and taking a few preventive measures can protect four-legged family members and help ensure a safer holiday season.