Since the holidays started, I’ve needed to call the ASPCA poison control hotline. As a Certified Vet Technician, I don’t hesitate to call their hotline to determine what steps I need to take. Our dog Walter helped himself to my last slice of yellow cake with chocolate frosting, which I’d left on the edge of the kitchen table. And I know better! Walter is fine, fortunately.
I’m not the only pet owner this happens to, especially at this time of year. Last year, the ASPCA hotline received an incredible 180,639 cases from concerned pet parents. With that in mind, there are many obvious dangers you hear about during this time of year—but what about the dangers that are often overlooked?
Did you know about these five dangers for pets?
Human food that contains xylitol
Chocolate is the biggest culprit when you’re talking about human food. And fatty foods, including turkey drippings, are a no-no.
But a less obvious human food ingredient to steer clear from is the sweetener xylitol. Xylitol is a sweetener used in many sugar-free products. Anything sweetened with xylitol, including peanut butter, can be extremely dangerous for your dog. Sugar-free gum also contains xylitol, so keep your purse up high where your dog can’t stick his nose in it.
Uncommon holiday plants
Lilies are one of the most dangerous flowers to have around cats. “It takes only a nibble or lick to send a cat into acute kidney failure, which can be fatal,” according to the Preventive Vet. Poinsettias, for their part, don’t need to be banished, but if the leaves are eaten it will cause GI upset in animals.
Also popular around the holidays is a flowering plant sold in grocery stores called cyclamen. The toxins of the cyclamen can cause a wide range of problems for dogs ranging from excessive salivation and digestive upset to seizures and heart rhythm abnormalities.
Well, we all wish fruitcake would be replaced with another holiday tradition. Everyone serves this at one point during the holidays!
Tinsel is not always thought of as dangerous. But a nibble from a cat can lead to a swallow, which can lead to an obstructed digestive tract, severe vomiting, dehydration and possible surgery.
Animals need to be monitored around decor. They are curious about all the ribbons and lights, which can lead to a visit to the vet hospital. Remember that a pet sitter or dog walker can help out and distract them when they need to burn off some extra holiday energy and you’re simply too busy.
Think about batteries like you do chocolate! If your dog consumes these, you could be looking at foreign body surgery. The level of toxicity can be moderate to severe.
If dogs chew them up, that can cause burns in the animal’s esophagus. Be careful when gifts are opened, as almost every gift is now battery-operated and the packages come with batteries that can easily be misplaced among piles of wrapping paper. I also learned in vet tech school that lithium batteries are very dangerous due to the risk of corrosive injury.
If you do run into a problem or emergency, contact your veterinarian immediately or call the ASPCA hotline at 855-764-7661.
If you want to learn more about common pet toxins that are prevalent all year-round, check out this video from the ASPCA:
The Bottom Line
Hiring a pet sitter or dog walker to entertain your pets during the busy holidays may be the best money you’ve ever spent! If you can’t find a predetermined area of the house that is closed off to dangerous holiday items, it’s easy to identify a Rover pet sitter to take your dog for an adventure at a local park while you wrap up holiday dinner, finish putting ribbons on gifts and visit the post office.
Based on personal experience, there’s no better resource than the ASPCA Pet Poison Helpline, a 24-hour animal poison control service available throughout the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean for pet owners who require assistance with treating a potentially poisoned pet. I’ve called so many times, the number is saved in my contacts!