Iowa State University
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News Service

News Service:

Annette Hacker, director,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777

12-13-06

Contacts:

Dr. Kim Langholz, Veterinary Medicine, (515) 294-4900, langholz@iastate.edu

Teddi Barron, News Service, (515) 294-4778, tbarron@iastate.edu

Holidays can be hazardous to pets

AMES, Iowa -- Decorations, lights, gift wrap and holiday food--the basic ingredients of holiday celebrations--can place companion animals at risk for injury and illness, says an Iowa State University veterinarian.

"A busy holiday household can put pets in peril," said Dr. Kim Langholz, a community practice veterinarian at the ISU Veterinary Teaching Hospital. "By simply being aware of the potential hazards, pet owners can greatly minimize the risk to their animals."

For example, a relatively new artificial sweetener found in sugar-free gum, candies and baked goods, poses a deadly risk. Xylitol is toxic to dogs, Langholz said. It can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar levels that leads to depression, coordination difficulties and seizure activity.

"If a significant amount is eaten, these signs are usually seen within 30 minutes. The pet should be taken immediately to the veterinarian for care," she said. "Even small amounts may cause problems, so if an animal consumes products containing this material, the owner should seek care for the pet."

Most risks from holiday hustle and bustle are found inside the house. However, others are found outdoors throughout winter. Langholz cautions pet owners to be aware of the following, which could put pets in jeopardy.

Indoor hazards

  • Christmas trees can be pulled over by climbing cats or curious dogs
  • Broken ornaments can cut paws/skin
  • Decorative lights are an electrocution hazard if the dog, cat, rabbit or other curious pet bites the wires
  • Chocolates contain chemicals that are dangerous for pets
  • Table scraps and bones can cause severe gastrointestinal disorders, pancreatitis and blockages that require surgery to remove. Try to remember: People food for people, pet food for pets.
  • Tinsel, ribbons or yarn, if swallowed, can require surgery to remove. They can cause the intestines to bunch up so that food cannot pass through properly.
  • Burning candles can be a danger. Curious animals could burn themselves or knock candles over and cause a fire.
  • Decorative plants vary in levels of toxicity. Poinsettias are low in toxins, while mistletoe--especially the berries--is highly toxic.
  • Visitors can cause pets to feel anxious. Make sure your pet has a safe zone where it can go for quiet and privacy. Make sure exterior doors are properly closed so pets don't escape.

Outdoor hazards

  • Cold weather can lead to frostbite. Provide appropriate shelter and a fresh water supply for your outdoor pets. Consider coats and boots for dogs that live indoors most of the time and may not be properly acclimated to the cold.
  • Antifreeze from vehicles is highly toxic. Repair leaky radiators and store antifreeze properly. Consider using alternative antifreeze products that contain propylene glycol and are less toxic.
  • Salt and other ice-melting products can be consumed when your pet licks its paws. If your dog doesn't wear boots on walks, wipe paws with a clean cloth when your pet comes in from outside.
  • Cats and other small animals will crawl up under the hood of a car for warmth. Honk your horn before starting your car.

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Dr. Langholz

Quick look

Decorations, lights, gift wrap and holiday food--the basic ingredients of holiday celebrations--can place companion animals at risk for injury and illness, says an Iowa State University veterinarian.

Quote

"By simply being aware of the potential hazards, pet owners can greatly minimize the risk to their animals."

Dr. Kim Langholz, ISU Veterinary Teaching Hospital