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The 12 Days of Christmas: Pet Hazards Series

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Updated: December 17, 2016



… what’s the most dangerous Christmas plant you can bring into your home and have around your pets this holiday season?
    A.    Cyclamen
    B.    Poinsettia
    C.    Mistletoe
    D.    Holly
    E.    Contrary to (very) popular belief, NOT the Poinsettia

Did you choose answer “E”?

If so, good for you. If not, don’t worry, you’re not even remotely alone. Nor would you be alone if you thought that a “Cyclamen” was a group of hipsters riding unicycles, while sipping artisan coffee, wearing skinny jeans, and singing Christmas Carols.

We at Preventive Vet want you and your pets to have a fun, joyous, safe, and healthy holiday season. Yet we also realize that you’ve likely got lots of shopping, planning, wrapping, cooking, and other things still to do — and that’s before the blur that is Christmas Day even arrives!

To help, we’ve put together for you this Pet Hazard Series of the 12 Days of Christmas. Below are 12 common Christmas pet hazards that we feel belong on Santa’s “naughty” list — after all, St. Nick is a huge pet lover, right? Each hazard is listed below, along with some important quick-look information and awareness. And there's more in-depth information in the article, so you’ll have all the awareness and tips you need to ensure that your pets receive the greatest present you can give them… a happy, healthy, safe time with you and your family.

The 12 Days of Christmas: Pet Hazards Series

cat-with-tree-and-tinsel-pet-hazard-summary1st Day of Christmas — Tinsel: Very common cause of digestive obstruction this time of year, especially in cats. Should be kept out of homes with cats. Not worth the risk. Read more.

fruitcake-pet-hazard-summary2nd Day of Christmas — Fruitcake: Between the yeast used in the cooking, the raisins and currants commonly included, and the alcohol that’s sometimes involved (either in cooking or in drinking to stomach the taste), these “gifts” can prove quite dangerous for your cats and dogs. Read more.

mistletoe-pet-hazard-summary3rd Day of ChristmasMistletoe: Ingestion of small quantities can lead to excessive drooling and digestive upset, while larger quantities can lead to heart rate and rhythm problems (arrhythmias) or neurologic issues. Hang it high and remove the berries to improve safety. Read more.

batteries-pet-hazard-summary4th Day of ChristmasBatteries: Batteries are everywhere at Christmas time - from the presents to people’s keychains and cell phones, and much more. While alkaline batteries can cause burns (if chewed) and obstruction even if swallowed whole, it’s the smaller “button” or “disc” type batteries that easily cause more severe, more-likely-to-be-fatal burns in a cat’s or dog’s esophagus. Read more.

lilies-pet-hazard-summary5th Day of Christmas — Lilies: Though lilies are primarily a very significant concern for cats, this is a hazard that everybody should be aware of and cautious with. After all, it’s not just cat owners who are likely to bring or send you flowers at the holidays. True lilies cause kidney failure in cats — and it’s not just the flower, but also its the pollen and the vase water that are dangerous. Read more.

ornaments-pet-hazard-summary6th Day of ChristmasOrnaments: Broken glass, swallowed ornaments, and the ornament “hangers” can all wreak havoc for a cat or dog’s digestive tract. And the broken glass isn’t fun for their delicate paws, either. Read more.

lights-and-electrical-pet-hazard-summary7th Day of ChristmasLight Strands: Positively shocking! Not only can a pet’s bite into a stand of lights cause an uncomfortable burn in their mouth, it can also cause seizures and a dangerous build-up of fluid in their lungs. And, as if that wouldn’t be bad enough, such bites have also lead to house fires. Read more.

chocolate-pet-hazard-summary8th Day of ChristmasChocolate: Sure, you’ve heard of the dangers of chocolate for dogs and cats, but do you know which types of chocolate are the worst? Have you thought of all the ways in which chocolate makes it into your home this time of year? There’s likely still plenty you’re not yet aware of regarding the dangers that chocolate poses to your pets. Read more.

ribbons-bows-pet-hazard-summary9th Day of ChristmasWrapping Bows & Ribbons: Like tinsel, wrapping bows and ribbons are a very common and dangerous cause of digestive obstruction in pets this time of year. Given their innate curiosity, cats are typically at higher risk, but plenty a dog has had this unfortunate experience, too. Be sure to properly and promptly dispose of all wrapping. Read more.

liquid-potpourri-pet-hazard-summary10th Day of ChristmasLiquid Potpourri: The detergents in most liquid potpourri can cause significant digestive or breathing problems for the pet unfortunate enough to lick any of it up. And you also need to be careful with the candles that are usually used to warm these liquids. Read more.

cyclamen-pet-hazard-summary11th Day of ChristmasCyclamen: Commonly sold at grocery stores and garden centers, these beautiful plants can cause excessive drooling, digestive upset, and heart problems for pets that decide to take a taste. See… far more dangerous than singing hipsters on bikes. No? Read more.

houseguests-pet-hazard-summary12th Day of Christmas —  Houseguests: Because of all the things they bring into your home at the holidays, houseguests earn the distinction of being the 12th Day of Christmas pet hazard. You can lessen the danger by ensuring that people hang all their coats and purses well out of reach of the pets, keep their bedroom and bathroom doors closed, and asking them not to feed your pets anything from the table (or anything in general). All easier to do, and less awkward, than asking them to pay the bill at the Animal ER when they don’t. Right? Read more.

And finally, about those “evil” Poinsettias… While they can cause some mild digestive upset for the cat or dog that nibbles them, they’re not nearly as deadly as you’ve likely read or been lead to believe. The fear all stems from an unsubstantiated suspicion from the early 1900s that a small child died from eating a Poinsettia leaf. So these staples of Christmas decorations need not be banished entirely from your holiday table.

Have a very Merry Christmas and a fantastic New Year!

Topics: Dog Safety, Cat Safety, pet safety, holiday pet safety tips, Christmas pet hazards, Poinsettias

Please do not ask emergency or other specific medical questions about your pets in the blog comments. As an online informational resource, Preventive Vet is unable to and does not provide specific medical advice or counseling. A thorough physical exam, patient history, and an established veterinary-patient-client relationship is required to provide specific medical advice. If you are worried that your pet is having an emergency or if you have specific medical questions related to your pet’s current or chronic medical conditions, please contact or visit your veterinarian, an animal-specific poison control hotline, or your local emergency veterinary care center.

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