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Holidays Can Be Hazardous for Your Pets

December 21, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS - 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.

"They're celebrating and they want their pet 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. Animal treats are best for dogs, she says, adding that the flour, nuts, raisins and chocolate in "people treats" can be dangerous to them.

For cats, Seilheimer says just about everything on the Christmas tree is a health hazard. Tinsel and string can block their intestines, and cats sometimes even eat pine 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."

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

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

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

People who think their animals have ingested something toxic should call a veterinarian or the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' 24-hour poison control center, at 888 4-ANI-Help.

More holiday animal safety tips are online at paw-rescue.org.

Leigh DeNoon, Public News Service - IN