It is difficult to imagine that some of our beautiful Christmas decorations, plants and even the delicious Christmas meal and treats may in fact pose health risks to our dogs and cats. In reality a great number of the human holiday traditional types of decorations and plants are in fact very likely to cause illness, injury or even death. Keeping your dog safe over the holiday season doesn't mean getting rid of all your traditions and displays, but it does mean you can be aware of the issues and be proactive in keeping your dog safe over the holidays.
There are several different categories or areas in the home or over the Christmas season that can be particularly problematic. The follow sections will briefly walk you through some common household items over the holidays that you may or may not realize are potentially dangerous to your pet's health.
Food And Drink
Christmas is always a time for excesses, especially in the areas of parties, grand meals and lavish get togethers. While you as a person may be able to say enough is enough and stick to the veggie platter, it is highly unlikely that your dog will do the same. Most dogs, given the option, will consume as much cheese, sausage, leftovers or virtually anything else offered to them until they have reached the point of no return.
For most dogs this type of overconsumption results in minor to major digestive upsets. Symptoms of overeating can include abdominal swelling and pains, excessive flatulence, diarrhea or constipation and vomiting. Dogs that have sensitive digestive systems are much more likely to develop these issues than other dogs, but all pooches have their limits. Dogs prone to bloat are at greatest risk with this type of overeating.
The best option is to respectfully and politely tell all guests that they are not to feed the dog, no matter how weak, starved or neglected he or she tries to appear as they are begging for that cheesy snack. Most dogs seem to know who in the crowd is likely to give in to sad eyes and a starved expression and just setting the ground rules with the guests will often prevent this issue. Most guests are happy to follow your rules, or you can simply put the dog outside, crate them or put them away from the group while the food is being served.
Drinks, particularly those containing alcohol are also a big problem when dogs are around. Some dogs are very cagey about waiting until a drink is set on the floor and running over to have a lick or two. Sugary drinks with sodas or beer are the most attractive to many dogs. Alcohol poisoning is very common with dogs and is often mistaken for other conditions. It can be fatal and is a serious issue for dogs of any size, although smaller dogs have less body mass and will react more quickly to even small quantities of any type of alcohol.
Turkey skin or the fat from ham is also a huge problem for dogs. The fat causes an escalation in the production of certain digestive enzymes which can irritate the pancreas. Severe digestive disorders can occur with this condition, resulting in the need to treat the dog for pancreatitis, which can cause problems over the dog's lifetime. Of course any types of bones from cooked poultry are a huge hazard for choking or lodging in the digestive system and can also cause perforations of the intestines, bowels and stomach.
Chocolate, caffeine, raisins, many types of nuts, grapes, onions and garlic should also be kept well away from dogs. Avoid feeding dogs any type of candies with sugar substitutes as this can cause serious reactions in some dogs.
Most dog owners are very aware that poinsettias and holly are toxic to dogs, however they may not also be aware that mistletoe and amaryllis are just as dangerous. In most cases dogs will have a severe blistering reaction on the mouth and tongue but may also have problem with breathing, diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pains from ingestion of some or all of the plant. Typically the berries and the stems of most of these types of plants are the most toxic, however it is a great idea to simply keep the plants well out of reach of the dog at all times.
Another common Christmas plant that can cause the same types of symptoms of vomiting, stomach pain and diarrhea is a Christmas cactus. These beautiful plants flower at Christmas and sometimes at Easter, and it seems that the flowers cause the most problems for dogs. If you think your dog has consumed any of the plants listed above call your vet. He or she will typically ask you to induce vomiting until the dog has productively vomited, then monitor the dog's overall behavior. In severe reactions hospitalization and treatment may be required.
Christmas is the time for soft, gentle light from candles in centerpieces, on the table and even in the windows. If you have dogs, candles are really not a good option unless they are securely located on a fireplace mantle or a shelf way above a swishing tail or a bouncy greeting that may involve the dog acting a bit goofy. Best case scenario the dog simply singes a bit of hair on their tail for a horrible smell in the house, but there is always the possibility that the candle can tip or fall, creating a very real fire hazard. Candles on tables or stands should never be left lit in a room with a dog, even if the owner just steps out of the room for minute or two.
The best option is to consider the new electric types of candles that are operated on batteries and LED lights. These electric candles give out a soft glow, will come on when it reaches as specific light level in the room and are very soft, beautiful and perfectly safe. Most of the new types of centerpieces and candle holders will easily fit these LED types of candles plus each small battery typically lasts one to two seasons, well worth the slightly higher cost of constantly replacing old fashion types of candles.