Written by S. Bowyer


     With the holidays here, many are planning an amazing feast with friends and relatives. But what dangers are we organising for our pets? Many of our traditions and "just this once for Fido" ideas could have serious, if not deadly, affects to our animals.



     In many cultures foliage is used to decorate the home. Christmas trees may be Cedars or alternate pines. These can add warmth to the home, but also a disaster around animals. Dropped pine needles can be a choking hazard, while Cedar sap from chewed bark could cause poisoning.

     Dangerous plants include, Cedar, Lilies, Holly berries, Mistletoe, Poinsettias, English Ivy, Amaryllis, Hibiscus, Tulips, Cyclamen, Yew, Christmas roses, and Easter Lilly. Opt for something such as the Christmas Cactus which blooms in December and has a much lower toxicity risk. Alternatively Balsam, Juniper, Pine or Fir.

     If using a fresh plant, think about your plant preservative. Many are non-toxic, yet household alternatives such as Aspirin/bleach mixes create a toxic drink. Even if you've opted to use plain water, do not allow your pet to drink from the tree's pot, as that plant could have been treated with fertiliser at an earlier stage.

     If you can watch or section off your fresh christmas tree from your pet, this may be safe, but the only risk-free alternative is a plastic tree. Pets may still try chewing off fragments, however, the attraction is not as strong without an enticing sap smell. Plastic can be swallowed with a lot less toxicity and symptoms.

     Lastly, ensure your plant is anchored correctly in case of pet interference. A heavy plant falling on a young animal could cause irreversable damage.



     Just before christmas, we buy and unpack our favourite ornaments and accompaniments. Many of them are poisonous and deadly to our pets -- and young children, in many instances.

     Tinsel is not poisonous, however, will combine in the intestines or stomach to cause a blockage. What compounds the danger is tinsel is plastic-coated and will not be found on an x-ray, meaning medical treatment is harder and more costly.

     Keep glass ornaments in high places where they won't be knocked off, and buy ornaments made of plastic (casted from a mold), non-toxic flowers, fabric, or wood for low branches. Look for ornaments that are not painted in lead-based paint. The creative can find some non-toxic paint and design their own, painting plastic shapes, hard vegetables, egg shells or pinecones.

     Candles are often used in the christmas displays. A chewed piece can be a choking hazard, a fire hazard if a tail knocked one over, or an inhalation death to a bird if it's scented. Avoid using candles unless they can be constantly watched. A bumped candle could also result in a house fire or damage to family members.

     Liquid potpourri should be guarded or not used, as exposure can cause a pet illness -- even death.

     Christmas lights can add instant atmosphere, but cords must be tacked to the wall or tucked behind furniture in case a pet chews the electrical cord. Electrocution can happen within minutes.

     Angel Hair is made of spun glass and should be avoided. While there is a low toxicity level, it can cause irritation to eyes, mouth and throat.



     The family feast is being cooked, but the phone rings. What do you do? Insist someone watches the boiling hot pan in case a pet decides the turkey looks good and pulls down the pan. Burns and scoldings are commonly caused this way.

     Everyone has gathered around the delicious spread. In the background Kitty and Fido are begging for their share. Don't give them any! The grease, fat, spice and food their stomachs aren't used to can cause vomiting, diarrhea, bloating and many digestional problems. Instead, treat your pets to some plain boiled veggies, grilled meat, or pet-specific treats. Chocolate, grapes and raisins -- including fruit cake, onion, alcohol, coffee, and macadamia nuts are poisonous and could warrrant emergency symptoms such as heart rate disruption, intestinal blockages, seizures, and coma in extreme cases.

     Clean up after Christmas dinner well. Dogs and cats have been known to devour bones, mouldy leftovers, candy wrappers, left alcoholic drinks, or the string or thermometers from the turkey, and suffered terrible illness. Just because dinner is over, danger is not.



     We all love a gift from Santa, but often these can become targets for pets. Ensure all gifts are kept in a cupboard until just before present-opening, making sure someone is in the room to guard them. Fido selecting a box to rip apart may sound fun unless you realise Uncle John's gift could contain glass, chocolate or any other deadly substance.

     Pets are allowed to join in the gift-giving process. Have their present kept elsewhere to deter their snooping. A pet present could be a special pet-food treat, a new toy or a new outfit. However, check all the ingredients in the product for safety. Pet clothes or cute santa hats containing rubber bands can harm skin if left on too long, or the rubber can be chewed off and cause intestinal obstruction.

     Do not tie ribbon from gifts around a pets' neck or use rubber bands on their limbs. These may look cute, but can cause choking or gangrene, due to the lack of blood to the leg.



     The most important time to remember your pets is when nearby groups decide to celebrate with fireworks. A sudden shock produced by a bursting firecracker or rocket could force your pet through a fence or barrier, running away without remembering which way home is.

     During fireworks, ALWAYS bring your pets inside. Ensure they are supervised and comforted. While Fido's barking may be annoying, his absence the next morning would be heart-breaking. What would you prefer?

     If you cannot arrange care for your animal, leave them inside the house and make sure they are wearing a tag and collar, or are microchipped in case they are lost.

     Pets will never be free from harm, no matter what choices you make. Visitors may bring unaccounted dangers in their bags that a pet may find, such as cosmetics, medications (headache pills particularly) or presents with toxic ingredients. Before carrying out any of the festivities, research your local poisoning authority and vet and place those numbers by the phone. Should a poisoning or choking occur, the best defence is quick intervention by a medical professional. Do not treat the health problem yourself unless instructed to.


     From the staff at Wesaytheysay.com, may you and your fur-children have a delightful and safe Christmas.

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