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Posted on Fri, Dec 18, 2009 : 11:47 a.m.

3 ways to keep your furry friends safe during the holiday and all winter long

By Deb Kern


Ann Edwards for

Every year thousands of pets are rushed to animal emergency rooms because they were accidentally poisoned by household items. According to the ASPCA, they handled 140,000 cases of pet poisonings in 2008.

A list of the “Top 10 Pet Poisons’” can be found on their website. The holidays are especially worrisome for pet owners because decorations and increased visitors in your home cause temptations for many pets.

Here are three things you can do to avoid harm to your furry friends:

  1. Leave the sugar and fatty treats to your human guests only! Sweets and particularly chocolate are dangerous for pets. Some chocolate contains theobromine, which can cause increased heart rate, diarrhea, vomiting and increased thirst. If enough is consumed it could lead to seizures and even death. Other kinds of candy contain an artificial sweetener called xylitol which is also highly poisonous for pets. Under-cooked pork is not only dangerous for humans; it’s also hazardous for pets. Trichinosis is a food borne disease caused by intestinal roundworm. Undercooked or raw meat of infected animals contains the roundworm. The disease can lead to muscle soreness and pain together with swelling of the upper eyelids in mild cases but can lead to more severe symptoms. Fatty, spicy and greasy food should be avoided as they cause upset stomachs in pets - oh and in many humans too!

  2. Don’t try to win a decorating contest. Fresh greenery might give your home an authentic touch but many holiday plants are poisonous to pets. Holly berries, mistletoe, lilies and poinsettias can be toxic to pets. You can achieve the look you want with artificial plants and keep your pets safe. Ribbons, bows, tinsel, foil and cellophane can cause intestinal blockage if they are ingested and should be kept away from pets. If you know your pet likes to chew, make sure extension chords and holiday lights are not accessible to your companions. Christmas tree water can contain bacteria and potentially fertilizer, not to mention dried out pine needles that can puncture the esophagus.

  3. Baby it’s cold outside. You wouldn’t leave your human baby outside exposed to the elements and you shouldn’t leave your furry babies outside either. Even though our pets have fur, they can’t withstand the cold temperature for very long. When animals are left out in wind, rain and snow they can get sick or they may search for cover, like the underside of cars and car engines, which can be fatal. Many de-icing and ice-melting products are toxic. Consider keeping a container of warm water and cloths by the door for use after walks. It is good to rinse the paws before you wipe them dry, because lime rock salt and calcium chloride salt can irritate the foot pads and cause vomiting and diarrhea when licked.

If you suspect your pet has been poisoned, you can call the Humane Society of Huron Valley Veterinary Clinic during our normal hours at (734) 662-4365, if you have questions. The ASPCA and and the Pet Poison Helpline are available for a small fee to answer questions 24-hours a day.

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