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Twelve Pet Safety Tips From WVMA Member, Dr. Ann Sherwood Zeiser

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Twelve Pet Safety Tips From WVMA Member, Dr. Ann Sherwood Zeiser

With the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, the Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association (WVMA) wants to help keep your pets safe. As you prepare for all the parties and festivities, please keep these tips from WVMA Member, Dr. Ann Sherwood Zieser in mind.

1. Leftovers

There are several problems with holiday meal leftovers. First of all, bones or bone pieces can traumatize the GI tract by causing irritation, ulcers or perforations. The bones can also result in a GI foreign body or intestinal blockage. This may result in a seriously ill pet and require intense medical or surgical intervention. 

Secondly, leftover meat scraps that are greasy or fatty may cause a gastritis or pancreatitis. Gastritis will most likely result in some messy vomiting and/or diarrhea as can pancreatitis. However pancreatitis can be very serious or even fatal to your dog or cat. It can even have long term consequences such as the eventual development of diabetes.irritation, ulcers or perforations. The bones can also result in a GI foreign body or intestinal blockage. This may result in a seriously ill pet and require intense medical or surgical intervention.

2. Wrapping Paper and Ribbons
Cats are especially attracted to bright, shiny Christmas ribbon and yarn. Unfortunately, if they ingest a significant amount it can have disastrous consequences. The ribbon can result in an intestinal obstruction or blockage. If the ribbon becomes anchored around a cat's tongue and can't pass through the intestines the consequences can be even more devastating. This can result in intestinal perforation and sepsis if not treated promptly. So please refrain from letting your cats (or dogs) get into your stash of beautiful Christmas ribbon.

3. Chocolate
Many people are aware that chocolate is toxic to dogs and should not be given to them but dogs don't always get the message and may get into unintended trouble. Do your best to keep the chocolate out of reach, but if your dog ingests chocolate, it can be toxic. The clinical symptoms may range from nothing to a little upset stomach, to heart arrhythmia, to death. It can be very serious and should always warrant a call to your veterinarian. Treatment will depend on the size of your dog and the type and amount of chocolate ingested.

4. Sugar Free Foods
Many people are not aware that xylitol, which is a common sweetener in sugar free gum and candy, can be very toxic to dogs and cats. It can cause hypoglycemia or low blood sugar and can be very toxic to the liver even resulting in sudden liver failure. If your pet gets into anything with this artificial sweetener please call your veterinarian. Some manufactures of peanut butter and other nut butters have started to add xylitol to their products. Before giving your pet a treat, read the label first to make sure it is safe.

5. Fruitcakes
So let's face it nobody really likes fruitcake....Okay, well most people don't like fruitcake but please don't use this as an excuse to feed it to the dog. It may end of causing some stomach upset and that just gets messy.

6. Christmas Lights
You should be concerned about a potential electrocution hazard because cats and dogs may be tempted to chew on the strands of pretty lights. Don't leave Christmas tree lights plugged in when not at home due to the potential fire hazard. You should also consider having a decal at your front window that states how many animals live in your house in case emergency personnel are ever called in for a rescue situation.

Believe it or not, crazier things have happened...Like cats or dogs eating Christmas lights too. Of course, Christmas lights are not on the normal list for nutritious elements and can result in a gastric foreign body or intestinal blockage.

7. Glass Ornaments
Your precious heirloom glass ornaments contain a lot of memories but also some hazards for your pets. If broken or shattered, not only will that wound your heart but it could also wound your pet. Glass shards could result in a laceration of the paw pads or could become embedded in the paw pads. Of course, our crazy animals are curious and may ingest glass shards that may cut into the delicate tissues of the intestinal tract. So please keep the breakable ornaments in a safe place, like the attic, until your pets are mature enough to admire them from a distance.

8. Alcohol
It may be cute or funny to watch your family members getting tipsy on some alcoholic beverages, but there's nothing cute or funny about offering alcohol to your pets. Animals are especially sensitive to the effects of alcohol and don't metabolize it the same way people do so keep the booze away from your pets.

9. Batteries
Batteries can pose a double hazards for dogs or cats. First, they can pose a foreign body or intestinal obstruction hazard that could result in a risky and expensive surgery for your beloved pet. Secondly, if the battery is bitten and punctured the acid can corrode and perforated the delicate tissues of the esophagus or further downstream. Keep the batteries picked up off the floor to avoid this hazard.

10. Tree Needles
Christmas trees are beautiful but they can also pose a hazard. Consider anchoring your tree to the wall or ceiling to avoid the possibility of the tree toppling over on your curious dog or cat. Tree needles, if ingested, are not poisonous per se but the needles may cause some stomach upset. The tannins in the Christmas tree water may also be upsetting to the GI system.

11. Tinsel and Christmas Decorations
There are so many beautiful Christmas tree decorations but they may be hiding unseen dangers. Garland could pose a strangulation hazard and tinsel if ingested may cause an intestinal blockage. There are some ways to enjoy your Christmas tree and keep your pets safe. You can use physical barriers such as baby gates to keep your animals away from the tree when you are not home. You could also purchase a device such as a scat mat that emits small amounts of static electricity to deter your cats or dogs from getting too close to the tree.

Also be careful with candles as they can pose a burn hazard. A cat's tails can be long and flexible enough to get into an open flame. Of course our animals may be curious or clumsy enough to knock over a candle and pose a fire hazard. They are some safer alternatives now such as battery operated LED candles.

12. Poisonous House Plants
Christmas plants are beautiful but there are certain ones that should be kept in the greenhouse or homes that do not house a curious animal. Poinsettias are lovely this time of year but cats like to chew on the leaves and petals and this can irritate the delicate tissues of the mouth and also cause stomach upset.

Lilies are especially toxic when ingested by cats. Even a small amount can damage the kidneys and send a cat into acute kidney failure that may not be reversible. To avoid the heartbreak of this situation please just look at the lilies at the store or on the internet. There are some varieties of lilies such as peace lilies that are not so poisonous so investigate before buying.

If you have any questions about keeping your pet safe this Christmas season, contact your local WVMA member veterinarian or find a veterinary clinic close to you at www.wvma.org/findaclinic.

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4610 S. Biltmore Lane, Suite 107
Madison, WI 53718
Phone: (608) 257-3665
Fax: (608) 257-8989
Email: wvma@wvma.org

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