Protecting Dog and Cats from Toxic Holiday Gifts

The Holidays Pose Lots of Hazards to Pets! (Rob Owen-Wahl Photo)
The Holidays Pose Lots of Hazards to Pets! (Rob Owen-Wahl Photo)

Pet poisoning incidents skyrocket around the holidays and holiday gifts are part of the reason for this increase in dog and cat poisoning incidents.

The typical present-related pet poisoning incident occurs like this: a family member or friend gives a gift like coffee, gourmet chocolates, teas, cigars or cigarettes, gourmet foods, potpourri or even bath and body products. These items pique a pet’s interest. After all, the powerful feline and canine noses are much more powerful than a humans, so they can smell what’s inside the wrapped gift from a mile away.

Problems arise when the gift is placed under the Christmas tree or left in another pet-accessible location. When no one is looking, the cat or dog will tear into the gift, eating the contents. This can be deadly if the gift contains tea or coffee (due to the caffeine), chocolate (due to the theobromine), gourmet foods (certain nuts are toxic), potpourri (some potpourris contain strychnine and other chemicals), cigarettes or cigars (the nicotine is toxic), and even some bath and beauty products contain toxins that could sicken or kill a dog or cat.

So pet owners should be cautious when placing wrapped gifts in a location that’s accessible to pets. Before placing a gift under the tree, ask the gift giver if the wrapped present contains anything edible or potentially toxic if the dog or cat were to eat it. When in doubt or unsure if a gift contains something potentially toxic, play it safe and keep the wrapped gift in a safe location that the pet cannot access.

Dog and Cat Health Hazards from Houseguests and Holiday Visitors

Another common poisoning hazard around the holidays involves houseguests. Houseguests may inadvertently give the dog or cat a toxic treat from his/her plate, so all houseguests and holiday visitors should be instructed to avoid feeding pets or leaving plates or food items in a location that’s pet accessible.

In addition, pets should be crated or moved to a spare bedroom during holiday gatherings and parties to ensure their safety. A dog or cat who is running loose during a holiday party could eat a toxic food, or the pet could raid purses and jacket pockets, eating gums and candies that contain deadly Xylitol.

A holiday party is also an ideal time for a biting or scratching incident. A child or even an adult guest may interact with a dog, cat, bird or other pet in an inappropriate manner, leading to unfortunate incidents like bites, attacks and scratching incidents.

A pet also faces physical dangers from guests. A holiday party guest who is engaged in conversation or who has been drinking may not notice a cat or dog. This could lead to the guest tripping over the pet or accidentally kicking the pet. This sort of situation could lead to injuries to both the guest and the animal.

Houseguests should also be instructed to keep their luggage out of a pet’s reach (like inside a closet) or keep their guestroom door shut at all times. If a dog was to ingest a body lotion, cosmetics, food items, candies, gum or even cigarettes, this could be potentially deadly.

Know Where to Find Help for a Poisoned or Sick Pet…Just in Case!

The holiday season poses many health hazards to dogs, cats, birds and other pets, so it’s important that pet owners understand how to handle pet health emergencies during this time of year.

Remember that many veterinary clinics are closed around the holidays. For this reason, pet owners should know where the nearest 24-hour veterinary clinic is located. Dealing with a sick or injured pet can be very frightening; this is not the time to search for an open veterinary clinic to help your pet.

Before an emergency arises, find a 24-hour emergency hospital and know how to get there. When a pet has suffered a serious injury or if a pet is seriously ill, minutes can mean the difference between life and death. You don’t want your pet to die while you’re searching for a veterinary clinic.

Also keep the number for the ASPCA’s Pet Poison Control Hotline handy; you never know when you may need it. Contact the ASPCA’s Pet Poison Control Hotline at 888-426-4435.

The holiday season also poses lots of decorating hazards for cats, dogs and other pets. Visit this post on – [The Blog] to learn more about what holiday decorations can pose a health and safety threat to pets.

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Mia Carter is a professional journalist and animal lover. Her furry family members include 6 dogs and 12 cats. She is also a feral cat colony caretaker. Carter specializes in pet training and special needs pet care. All of her animals have special needs such as paralysis, blindness, deafness and FIV, just to name a few. She also serves as a pet foster parent and she actively rehabilitates and rescues local strays and feral kittens.

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