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Holiday Survival Guide for Pets & Their People

This is the time of year that the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center receives even more calls than normal (and yes, many of them are about holiday chocolates).

Goodies that are baddies for pets:

  • Wrapped gifts containing food
  • Snow globes
  • Holiday treats such as chocolate, uncooked poultry, bread dough, fruitcake, and alcohol
  • Salt in ice melt
  • Homemade play dough and salt-dough ornaments
  • Plants that can cause (generally mild) illness
  • Poinsettia, Christmas cactus, and holly

The Big 5 Holiday Dangers:

  1. Chocolate: This tasty treat accounts for the vast majority of holiday calls to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control center (Halloween and Valentine's Day don't even come close). Why? Often it's because of wrapped chocolate gifts left under the tree. And with the popularity of cocoa content, it takes even less candy to get our four-legged friends in a world of trouble.
  2. Tree preservatives: What is generally seen is mild gastrointestinal upset. However, if there is bacterial contamination, the potential for gastrointestinal upset can be more significant.
  3. Poinsettias: Poinsettias are primarily mucous-membrane irritants - and despite the worry they cause pet owners, the plants aren't usually too dangerous if treated properly.
  4. Medications: Guests. Winter colds. Kids home from school. This trifecta of medication exposure dangers calls for extra caution. Add the fact that worried pet owners generally can't remember how much medicine was actually in that little baggie that the pup ate, and you can just feel a headache coming on. Any and all medications need to be stored up high or in a locked cabinet.
  5. Alcohol: Yes, some days we feel like going home and having a stiff drink after dealing with all those chocolate cases. However, right now we are talking about the little chihuahua who likes to scale the couch and help herself to the owner's eggnog. The good news: animals usually vomit after alcohol ingestion. The bad news: alcohol is absorbed quickly.