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Winter Holidays – A dangerous time of the year for pets

Guinness and Bailey from Billmae Cottage

Believe it or not, the holidays can be the most dangerous time for your pets. The two greatest dangers are losing your pet and pet poisoning.

When the winter holidays are upon us, many new people are in and out of your home – guests, dog sitters, relatives…. And with each new person entering the home, the door is opened and shut with much more frequency. Although some pets are locked away when guests are in and out, some are allowed to roam the home freely. Make sure to warn your guests and visitors to be ever careful of your pets so that there are no escapes!

Be sure to pay just as much attention to your pets during the holiday season as you do regularly. Try not to skip walks or just a pat on the head occasionally. This will help to create less stress for them.

Be very very careful of feeding your pets extra “stuff” during this time of rich food and special dishes. Try to keep pets on their regular diet. Never, ever give them chocolate and be careful with chicken or turkey bones. They can splinter and puncture their intestines. Chocolate makes pets very sick – causing severe cramping, diarrhea and vomiting.

Christmas cactus - pretty but poisonous!

Also during the holidays and even after, be very, very careful and cover your electrical cords. I just heard a horrible story about a woman who was hot gluing her Christmas decorations and her puppy started chewing her glue gun cord while it was plugged in and electrocuted herself! Luckily the owner was right there and was able to remove her and got her immediately to the vet and saved her life. She had to give her CPR before she got her to the vet though! It was just a matter of her standing right there talking to her friend while they were making decorations; she turned her head for literally a second and the puppy got a hold of the cord. So please cover up your electrical cords, especially if you have a curious teething puppy!

Don't let your pets chew on power cords.

Be cautious around plants with animals as well. Holiday plants like the poinsettia and Christmas cactus are among many which are poisonous to our four-legged friends. And never try to make your pet vomit. Sometimes the vomiting can cause just as much damage going up as it did going down. If you suspect your pet has been poisoned, get him/her to a vet immediately. Some signs of poisoning are vomiting, diarrhea, and shortness of breath. If your pet appears to be stumbling about or his/her pupils appear to be dilated, it’s best to have it checked out. These could also be symptoms!

Since it’s getting colder, just make sure your pets are always warm – make sure that if they do go outside, they don’t stay out for long periods of time.

Some of these tips may aid in a happier, healthier holiday and winter season. Enjoy!

Joanne McCullough is the owner of McCullough Pet Sitting, a pet-sitting service for the Cape May area.

Editor’s Note: This article comes to us by way of Linda Steenrod, who owns the pet-friendly Bilmae Cottages here in Cape May. Her dog Jameson innocently ate a plant he shouldn’t have and was seriously ill and still recovering.

Poinsettias survive past the holiday season and can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Keep them away from your pets!

Fall and Winter Holiday Plant Toxicity in Dogs

By PetPlace Veterinarians

Flowers and plants add beauty to any holiday, and they make great holiday gifts. But if your family includes pets, you may want to learn which plants are safe and which ones you need to avoid.

Here is a list of plants to avoid. Remember that ingesting bulb plants often cause the most severe illnesses.

  • Holly (Ilex sp.). This plant, commonly found around Christmas time, can cause intense vomiting and diarrhea. Mental depression can also occur.
  • Amaryllis (Amaryllis spp). Ingestion can result in vomiting, diarrhea, depression, lack of appetite, tremors, drooling and abdominal pain.Mistletoe (Phoradendron spp.). This plant, another Christmas plant, can also cause significant vomiting and diarrhea. In addition, this plant has been associated with difficulty breathing, slowed heart rate, collapse and, if a lot is ingested, death has occurred. Some animals may even show erratic behavior and possible hallucinations.
  • Poinsettia (Euphorbia). This plant can cause irritation to the mouth and stomach and sometimes vomiting. It has a low level of toxicity and is overrated as a toxic plant. Many people consider it basically non-toxic.
  • Christmas cactus, Thanksgiving cactus, Easter cactus (Schlumbergera or Zygocactus). In dogs, if large quantities of this plant are ingested, vomiting, possibly with blood, diarrhea, possibly with blood and mental depression have been reported. With small ingestions, typically there are no signs of toxicity. These plants are considered low toxicity plants.

Some less common toxic winter holiday plants include:

  • American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens). Ingestion results in weakness, vomiting and seizures.
  • European bittersweet (Solanum dulcamara). Ingestion results in drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, depression, lack of appetite, weakness, confusion and low heart rate.
  • Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum morifolium). Ingestion results in vomiting, diarrhea, depression, drooling and lack of appetite.
  • Christmas rose (Helleborus niger). Ingestion results in abdominal pain, vomiting, bloody diarrhea and delirium.
  • Jerusalem cherry (Solanum pseudocapsicuni). Ingestion results in vomiting, diarrhea, mouth ulcers, seizures, mental depression, respiratory depression, shock and death.
  • Autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale). Ingestion of the bulbs results in mouth irritation, blooding vomiting, diarrhea, shock, kidney failure, liver damage and bone marrow suppression.
  • Thanksgiving cactus (Zygocactus truncactus). Ingestion results in vomiting, diarrhea and depression. Cats also can develop staggering.
  • Christmas palm (Veitchia merrillii). This plant is considered nontoxic.
  • Christmas orchid (Cattleya trianaei). This plant is considered nontoxic.
  • Christmas dagger fern (Polystichym spp). This plant is considered nontoxic.
  • Mistletoes cactus (Thipsalis cassutha). This plant is considered nontoxic.
  • Burning bush (Euronymous alatus). Ingestion can result in vomiting, diarrhea, depression and lack of appetite.