Celebrating the holidays with healthy pets


The AVMA offers tips on how to prevent holiday hazards from harming family pets.

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The smell of the feast is sure to have tails wagging this holiday season, but busy crowds of family and friends and an abundance of food may present safety hazards for your clients' pets. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) offers the following tips to keep pets safe.

The holiday feast is for people-not pets. Table scraps may seem like a fun way to include a pet in the festivites, but many foods are poisonous to pets including onions, garlic, raisins and grapes.

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Just because it's dead, doesn't mean it's not deadly. A turkey carcass left in an open trash container or one that's easily opened could prove deadly if the family pet finds it. A pet that “discovers” the carcass can quickly eat so much that it causes pancreatitis, which can cause death fairly quickly. Dispose of meat carcasses in a covered, tightly secured container (or a trash can behind a closed, locked door) along with anything used to wrap or tie the meat and any bones left on plates-these are also hazards and can be very tempting for pets.

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Desserts and pets don't mix. Most people understand that chocolate is poisonous to pets, and that the darker it is the more deadly it is. Baker's chocolate is extremely dangerous to pets. Many dogs find it tempting, and will sniff it out and eat it if they find it. An artificial sweetener called Xylitol has also been shown to be just as deadly to dogs. Xylitol is a common sweetener used in baked goods and chewing gums. 

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Want to treat a pet? Buy a treat that is made just for him. Pets will enjoy the treat just as much as anything else, and it can spare a holiday spent at the emergency clinic.

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When treating your pet, make sure the pet treat is not a part of any ongoing recall. For a list of animal food recalls and alerts, go to



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For some pets, houseguests can be scary. Pets shy or excitable around new people may have a hard time around the holidays when new people may be visiting. If a dog or cat can be overwhelmed when people come over, they should stay in another room or in a crate with a favorite toy so they're out of the frenzy and feel safe. Boarding may also be a smart option to remove them completely from this upsetting situation. If your pet is particularly upset by houseguests, talk to your veterinarian about possible solutions to this common problem.

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For pets who are comfortable around guests, they should be watched closely when houseguests are entering or leaving. While you're welcoming hungry guests and collecting coats, a four-legged family member may make a break for it out the door and become lost. It's also a good idea to make sure your pet has proper identification, particularly microchip identification with up-to-date registered information, so that if they do sneak out, they'll be returned to you.

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Decorations can be dangerous. As holiday tables are dressed with centerpieces and flowers, they should be kept up and away from your pets. Some decorations look good enough to eat and pets may decide to have a taste. Depending on the flower or decoration, this can result in stomach upset or worse. Lilies, in particular, are deadly to cats. Pine cones and needles, if consumed by a pet, can cause an intestinal blockage or even perforate the animal's intestine.

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Fire, kids and pets make a bad combination. Dinner by candlelight can provide an elegant atmosphere for a holiday meal, but where there's a flame, there's the opportunity for disaster. Children and pets should be kept away from any open flame or fire. If their safety can't be ensured in the holiday commotion battery operated candles can be used. And forget the fireplace, no amount of elegance or cozy will make up for an injured loved one or a house that's burnt to the ground.

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Quick action can save lives. If you believe your pet has been poisoned or eaten something it shouldn't have, call your veterinarian or local veterinary emergency clinic immediately.

Use handouts from dvm360.com to learn how to poison-proof your home and what to do if your pet is poisoned and for a poison list and other resources, go online to the Pet Poison Hotline.

Finally, click here to see a video on holiday season pet tips from the AVMA.

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