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Holidays Can Be Hazardous for Your Pets

December 19, 2011

CHICAGO - Holiday treats are for people, not dogs. That's the message from veterinarians this month, reminding pet owners that holidays can be a hazardous time for animals.

Lindsay Seilheimer, a veterinarian at the University of Illinois Chicago Center for Veterinary Medicine, says too many people harm their pets, just by treating them, and feeding them, like people during the holidays.

"You know, they're celebrating and they want their pets to celebrate with them, so they want to give them some of their table food, and it's just not a good idea."

She says the high-fat foods that are typical holiday fare can lead to inflammation of the pancreas, which can make dogs sick and cause them a lot of pain. She adds animal treats are best for dogs: the flour, nuts, raisins and chocolate in "people treats" can be dangerous to them.

Seilheimer also says you can't just let your dogs hang out with a bunch of the neighbor dogs at a holiday party. It hardly ever goes well.

"You always want to have a controlled introduction with dogs on leash, because they're not necessarily all going to get along. And we do see bite wounds that way, especially over food and toys."

For cats, Seilheimer says, just about everything on the Christmas tree is a health hazard. Tinsel and string can block their intestines and sometimes, cats even eat tree needles, which can cause big problems.

"There have been a few cats who eat a bunch of it, and the needles sort of all conglomerate in one area in the stomach, and then they need surgery to remove that."

She says occasionally, people even try to give their pets a sip of their holiday mixed drinks, which is also a bad idea.

If you think your animal has ingested something toxic, call your vet or the ASPCA's 24-hour poison control center, at 1-888-4-ANI-Help.

Holiday animal safety tips are at tinyurl.com/7tzml96.

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL