Ho! Ho! Ho! Santa Says to Protect Your Pets from the Dangers of the Christmas Tree!

By Dr. Doug Pernikoff, DVM

Christmas is a wonderful time for family and friends to share the miracle of life, with all the love and merriment of the holiday season. Our homes are adorned with holiday lighting, poinsettia plants and mistletoe. Lots of goodies like brownies and other wonderfully fattening foodstuffs, and of course, the central adornment being the family Christmas Tree that umbrellas a score of presents of all sizes and shapes, covering the tree’s base. So, What’s To Worry???? Let me tell you what to be alert to in order to protect your beloved family pets from potential dangers insidiously integrated into this most joyful holiday setting.

As with Thanksgiving, there are any number of food items that can encourage intestinal problems in our dogs and cats, some that can even prove life threatening. With Christmas, a new further collection of potential health issues can arise with our pets’ exposure to many of those objects associated with Christmas, and in particular, regarding our Christmas Trees.

Puppies and especially kittens or cats, are notoriously interested in exploring and grasping objects into their mouths. Electric cords to light our trees can be very concerning, causing any degree of damage from simple skin burns to actual electrocution through biting and chewing actions. Try to keep them covered and out of direct access to our pets. Another significant issue regards the yarn, string and other binding objects associated with all those exciting presents surrounding the tree. In particular, cats will begin to play with loose ends of these twine like objects, and will actually begin chewing and swallowing them without good reason. The same issue concerns reflective tinsel dangling from Christmas Tree branches, a real bait for our predatory cats, who love the motion as well as the reflectivity of this item. As the cat swallows these items, they move slowly along the intestinal tract, after a portion exits the stomach. The bowel inherently attempts to contract and move the string items along, and as a result, causes a bunching up of intestines. Soon the intestines have tightened up and as their contractility persists, can actually scissor through the lining, eventually rupturing and allowing dangerous intestinal bacteria and debris to fall free into the abdominal cavity. A life threatening condition called peritonitis can ensue, and nary an evening passes at the Emergency clinic without a very sick cat entering in need of immediate and significantly dangerous surgical exploration and more.

And remember that any plastic or glass ornament can break, exposing pets to lacerations, or again, if ingested, and only God knows why they would do so, may impose serious medical and surgical needs in caring for our animal patients.

Many people adorn their Christmas Trees with chocolate candies, that we have learned in the past, can prove toxic to our family pets. Keep such items well away from Fido and Felix. Finally, remember that animals will explore and chew at plants that are featured at the holiday time. Poinsettias and mistletoe, can both be irritating and if ingested in large amounts, can prove very toxic.

As with any of these concerns mentioned herein, I encourage committed pet owners to take serious note to prevent any of these potential calamities to occur, most certainly impacting the peace and tranquility intended for all of us to enjoy this wonderful holiday time.

Be well! Be safe! Enjoy the Christmas and New Year season with all your family, your friends and of course, your family pets. All my love!

Fondly, Dr. Doug & Staff
Clarkson-Wilson Veterinary Clinic
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