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    No Fun for Fido: Holidays can be Hazardous Times for Pets

    COLLEGE STATION - Christmas may be a time of cheer, but for pets, holidays can mean hazards. Numerous items associated with Christmas can be harmful or fatal to your pet and pet owners should be extra careful this time of year, says Dr. Alice Blue-McLendon of Texas A&M University's College of Veterinary Medicine.

    "The holidays can create some dangerous situations for pets, and these can be a rough time for them," says Blue-McLendon.

    "But with a little care and precaution, these dangers can be minimized."

    Some holiday hazards:

      Plants. Christmas trees pose numerous problems for pets, from the decorations to pets chewing on pine needles. If a natural tree is placed in water, be sure there is some type of covering or skirt so the pet can't lick up any of it, which can cause digestion problems and diarrhea. Plants can also pose digestion problems: poinsettias can be toxic, as can holly berries and some types of ivy. "Always keep pets away from plants at Christmas to be on the safe side," she adds.

      Candy. It's the time of year when candy is everywhere, but it can be fatal to pets. "Chocolate contains substances that can cause seizures and even death," Blue-McLendon says. "Even hard candy could cause choking. There's no good reason to give candy to a pet. Never place presents that contain food items under a Christmas tree if you have indoor pets."

      Ornaments. Tree ornaments are natural play toys for many dogs and cats, and flashing lights can be tempting targets for pets. "It's best to avoid icicles on trees, especially if you have a cat. They like to swat them, and the tree can easily overturn," Blue-McLendon notes.

      Cords. Electrical cords are never more present than at Christmas, and they can be chewed on, especially by puppies and kittens, and the results can be tragic. Cords and pets don't mix, says Blue-McLendon.

      Food. Turkey and ham are frequent holiday offerings, but never ever give the bones to a pet. "It's very easy for a bone to break off and the animal can choke to death," Blue-McLendon says. "In general, it's not a good idea to give pets people food at Christmas because these foods tend to be high in fat and calories. Keep your pet on its regular diet and avoid the bones," she says.

      Fireworks. Sparky and sparks don't mix. "Pets can easily be burned by fireworks, and at the very least, the noises can frighten them," Blue-McLendon adds. "It's never a good idea to set off fireworks anywhere near a pet.

    "There's always some potential problems for pets during the holidays," Blue-McLendon says. "Avoiding these problems does take some extra precaution, but with some good common sense, pets and their owners can make it through the holidays with little trouble."

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 13 Jul 2007
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