MECA Veterinarians Warn About Potential Holiday Hazards For Your Pets

Nov. 19, 2012

MECA Veterinarians Warn Pet Owners About Potential Holiday Hazards
Dr. Marla Lichtenberger of the Milwaukee Emergency Center for Animals Provides
Essential Tips that will Keep Pets Safe and Ensure they Enjoy the Holidays, too!

MILWAUKEE. Nov. 16, 2012 – ‘Tis the season to enjoy holiday dinners, home decorating, parties, celebrations and all that comes with the season’s holiday festivities. However, fall and early winter can spell t-r-o-u-b-l-e for pets, due to an increase in potential dangers that are easily overlooked with all holiday activities and distractions. Dr. Marla Lichtenberger, DVM, DACVECC and owner of the Milwaukee Emergency Center for Animals (MECA) in Greenfield, Wisconsin, encourages pet owners to take preventive measures that will ensure our furry family members have a happy holiday season without a trip to a veterinary emergency center. Following Dr. Lichtenberger’s holiday safety tips will enable pet owners to include their four-legged children and guests in holiday festivities, without exposing them to potential dangers.

Holiday Safety Tips for Pet Owners

The holiday season brings with it feasts with a variety of foods that pets are easily attracted to and tempted by. However, holiday feasts are for people, not pets. Avoid feeding them table scraps or leftovers, which can be poisonous, such as grapes, raisins, garlic, onions, chives, avocado, chocolate or the artificial sweetener, zylitol. Zylitol is typically found in baked goods and highly poisonous to pets. Other foods that are extremely dangerous, include caffeinated drinks, coffee grounds, mint-flavored items, nuts, fat trimmings and animal bones, which can splinter easily and cause obstructions and lacerations within the digestive systems of pets. These foods can be extremely toxic and fatal to them if ingested, causing pancreatitis and even death, within a short amount of time. Ensure pets are kept on their regular diets during the holiday season and avoid feeding special treats from the dinner table. Don’t leave food unattended, dispose of turkey carcasses by sealing in bags, keep garbage secured in pantries, under cabinets or outside in covered garbage cans.

Pet Toys
Choose toys and gifts for pets that are pet-safe, such as Kongs that can be stuffed with healthy foods or chew treats that are designed to be safely digestible. Buy treats made for pets to prevent the temptation of feeding them human food from the holiday feast. Remember that dogs enjoy tearing things apart and cats fancy long, stringy objects, so avoid purchasing toys that have small pieces that can be swallowed and lodged in the esophagus, stomach or intestines.

Poisonous Plants
Although holiday plants and trees provide festive decors for our homes, they can be deadly to our pets. Those of particular concern, include poinsettias, mistletoe, holly, chrysanthemums, evergreens, ivy, juniper and pine needles, which can cause breathing difficulties, vomiting, diarrhea, trembling, hallucinations or death. Many varieties of lilies are lethal to cats, even in slight amounts. Prevent pets from drinking from Christmas tree basins and keep holiday plants out of reach.

Antifreeze Poisoning
During the winter season, too many dogs and cats die from antifreeze poisoning. Antifreeze is extremely toxic to pets and can easily cause death in even small amounts. Antifreeze that contains a bittering agent to counteract its sweet taste may not prevent pets from ingesting it. Keep it out of reach in a firmly shut cabinet.

Ribbons & Wrappings
Avoid the temptation to dress pets up using holiday ribbons and bows, and keep wrapping paper and utensils in tightly covered containers, and away from curious critters. Decorative ribbon “collars” can be choking hazards and if ingested, they can twist throughout the intestines, requiring surgical removal and possibly death.

Bright, colorful decorations can spark the interest of naturally curious pets. Place candles on high, stable surfaces so they can’t be knocked over by little paws. Don't leave lit candles unattended and put them out before leaving the room. Rope, icicle, netting and garland holiday lights can be dangerous to pets. In addition, electrical cords can cause tongue lacerations or death to pets that like to chew. Use grounded, three-prong extension cords as a safety precaution. Pets prone to chewing may also find sparkling, brightly-colored tree ornaments fun to play with. Position paper, glass and aluminum ornaments higher up on the tree to prevent choking or broken pieces from lacerating the mouth, throat and intestines. Metal, wooden, resin-cast and other durable ornaments can be placed on lower-level branches. Avoid using tinsel on Christmas trees. Cats, especially, find it interesting and will bat it around or carry it in their mouths. Pets that ingest tinsel can easily experience digestive tract obstructions, requiring emergency surgery. Find other ways of brightening trees that are safer for pets, such as non-breakable ornaments.

Home Rules & Holiday Guests
With the holiday season comes an increase in activities and home visitors, which can disrupt routines, which pets become accustomed to. During this time, keep pets on regular feeding and exercise schedules that are as close to their normal routines as much as possible. As holiday guests arrive and depart, keep pets away from doors and under control to prevent them from bolting through open doors. Ensure cats have places to hide and access to their litter boxes. Decrease surrounding noise by playing music or turning on the TV. During the festivities, check pets often and provide them with frequent bathroom breaks and occasional walks.

Pet owners who suspect their pets have ingested poisonous, dangerous or inappropriate foods, substances or objects are encouraged to call the Milwaukee Emergency Center for Pets (MECA) at 414-543-7387 (PETS). The critical care, state-of-the-art animal emergency facility provides specialty and emergency care for small pets and exotics 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

About The Milwaukee Emergency Center for Animals (MECA); (
Dr. Marla Lichtenberger, DVM, DACVECC, is the owner of the Milwaukee Emergency Center for Animals
in Greenfield, Wisconsin. Dr. Lichtenberger is a highly respected and knowledgeable veterinarian, dedicated to critical emergency and surgical care of dogs and cats, as well as exotic animals. She is committed to improving the overall health and care of Wisconsin’s animals in need, along with her exceedingly knowledgeable and expert staff, veterinarians and certified specialists, specializing in critical care, anesthesia, behavioral therapy, dentistry, diagnostic imaging, emergency assistance, hospitalization, laboratory, surgery, and therapeutic rehabilitation.

The Milwaukee Emergency Center for Animals (MECA) is a specialized, “tertiary care hospital” for animals, which serves as a small animal critical care and emergency facility that operates 24 hours a day.
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