Fido! Don’t Chew on the Tree: What Pet Owners Should Know for the Holidays

Christmas is fast approaching! It is time to get those holiday decorations out and the tree up and decorated. Then comes wrapping presents and placing them under the tree, and baking the abundance of cookies and other treats we only get during this special time of year.

While we love this time of year for the festivities and family gatherings, our pets love this time year for the fun to be had and trouble to be made with the many shiny, noisy, good smelling “treats” that are laid out throughout the house.

However, not all of these “treats” will leave your pets feeling festive for the holidays. Here are four things to look out for to help protect your pet this holiday season:

1. Holiday Plants

These plants may look pretty to us, but they look pretty AND tasty to our pets.  However, certain plants such as holly and holly berries can cause stomach upset and could potentially be fatal to cats and dogs. Mistletoe can cause stomach upset and possible heart collapse. And Poinsettias come with a bit of an “old wives tale” attached to them; the plant itself is not fatal, but it contains a sap that can cause blisters in the mouth as well as stomach upset.  Be sure to keep these plants out of reach of your four-legged friends.

2. Christmas Treespets and holidays

We all love to decorate our Christmas trees. We carefully place the shiny tinsel and garland, flashing strings of lights and colorful ornaments onto our trees.  These items are very inviting for animals to “attack” the tree.  Animals love shiny things, especially when they can pull and tug!  Tinsel and garland if swallowed could cause an obstruction/blockage in the animal, requiring surgery.  Animals also love to play with ornaments.  If broken and swallowed, they could cause lacerations in the mouth, esophagus and/or stomach.

3. Electrical Cords

If your pet chews on the electrical cords wrapped around the tree or strung about the house, it could result in burned mouths, electric shock, or death by electrocution. Some bulbs can become very hot causing burns outside of the body as well.  It’s always a good idea to try to keep these items high enough on your tree so pets cannot reach them.

4. Edible Treats

Lastly are all the wonderful treats we get to eat this time of year. Cookies, fudge and hard candy are just a few items on the menu during the Christmas season which our animals love to get their furry paws on.  Some chocolate contains the ingredient theobromide, which can cause diarrhea, nervous system or urinary system damage, seizures or death in animals.  Unsweetened and dark chocolates have the highest concentration of this chemical and are the worst for your furry friends.  All chocolate, candy and cookies should be kept out of the reach of your animals.

In their Application to Veterinary Clinical Skills class, students earning veterinary technology degrees at Globe University-Wausau learn about the dangers that plants and unsuitable food can pose to animals and how these are very popular issues in a veterinary clinic. They also learn how common it is for staff to have to deal with these pet health issues during the holiday season. 

Brittany Pepowski, a veterinary technology student, said she learned that you need to be aware of the plants that your pets have access to and that feeding people food as a treat for your pet could do more harm than good. “You should always pick up after yourself, since owning a pet is just like having a toddler in the house,” she said.

The holidays are a special time of year to get together with friends and family, but please take special caution and be sure to keep your furry family members out of trouble this season.

By Janet Laffin, CVT, Veterinary Technology Program Chair, Globe University-Wausau