What is the one of the best ways to enjoy the holidays? Be prepared! Your pet will thank you, too, as there are a number of “holiday hazards” to avoid and planning ahead will help keep the season merry for all.

1. Electrical cords. The holidays often bring lights, lights, and more lights! Curious puppies and kittens are at most risk of burns or electrical shocks. Try and keep electrical cords out of reach, tape them down or cover them with protective casing.

2. Holiday ornaments. While holiday ornaments aren’t poisonous, they can have sharp edges and the ability to break or shatter. Try to keep ornaments out of reach of pets to avoid lacerations of the tongue or inadvertent ingestion.

3. Unbaked bread dough. If eaten, the stomach can act as an oven that can metabolize the yeast into carbon dioxide and ethanol. Your pet can then bloat and actually suffer from alcohol poisoning from the ethanol.

4. Raisins and grapes. Candied fruits are popular around the holidays and many people may be unaware that grapes and raisins are poisonous for dogs and cats. Keep fruit cakes and other treats up and away from your pets.

5. Tinsel. Cats are often fascinated by shiny, thin strands of tinsel. If ingested these can wrap around in the intestine or stomach and create a razor sharp surface that can cut or cause an obstruction. Keep tinsel way out of reach of your feline friends.

6. Xylitol. Xylitol is a sugar free substitute often used in sugar free products such as gum and hard candies. There is now even a sugar free peanut butter with xylitol as the sweetener. Xylitol can cause vomiting, loss of coordination, seizures and even liver failure so read labels carefully when buying sugar free foods.

7. Mistletoe and holly. Mistletoe and holly are common plants seen around the holiday. Unfortunately for our pets, they are some of the most toxic holiday plants as well. They can cause severe gastrointestinal distress, difficulty breathing, and even heart failure. Poinsettias are also considered “toxic” to pets but actually the symptoms are often only mild indigestion. Puppies and kittens will be the much more affected than adults, however.

8. Chocolate. What would we do without chocolate around the holidays? There are many types of chocolate from milk chocolate, semi-sweet, dark chocolate, chocolate covered espresso beans and chocolate covered nuts and berries. All of these are dangerous for dogs and cats.

Other ways to be prepared is to keep the number of your regular veterinarian, a local emergency hospital, and the Pet Poison Hotline (1-888-426-4435) written down so if an emergency does arise you will have those numbers close at hand. Have a happy (and safe) holiday season!

– Dr. Marci Cook