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Health eTips is produced by the staff of the St. Charles County Department of Public Health. The department consists of three divisions - Environmental Health and Protection, Health Services and Humane Services - that provide a wide range of services focused on enhancing the well-being of this community.

If you have questions about the Department of Public Health or have suggestions on public health topics you'd like to see explored in this blog, please email us.

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Dec 12

Holiday Pets

Posted on December 12, 2018 at 11:35 AM by Doug Bolnick


Dogs and cats are inquisitive creatures. The inviting aromas,dog_christmas_lights shiny decorations and new faces surrounding holiday celebrations can pique their interest. The Division of Humane Services reminds you to be aware of the dangers these items may cause your pets.

Limit "People Food" Treats

Many favorite holiday foods and flavorings are harmful or even toxic to animals, causing anything from upset stomachs, to vomiting, organ damage or death. Know the consequences of feeding your dog or cat the following:

  • Alcohol causes a host of problems for pets, including decreased coordination, vomiting and difficulty breathing.
  • Chocolate, especially dark chocolate and baker’s chocolate, can be toxic for dogs.
  • Fatty meats and indigestible bones can cause choking hazards.
  • Garlic and onions can damage a cat’s red blood cells.
  • Grapes and raisins can damage a dog’s kidneys.
  • Nuts, especially Macadamia nuts, can upset a pet’s stomach and cause vomiting and/or diarrhea.
  • Nutmeg can cause seizures and central nervous system problems when eaten directly or as a flavoring on “safe” foods like sweet potatoes, apples and carrots.
  • Xylitol Sweetener used in sugar-free gum and baked goods can lower blood sugar levels and cause liver failure.

Decoration Dangers

Colorful holiday decorations can cause injury to your pet as well. Edible decorations like cookies, cranberries, popcorn and candy can lead to upset stomachs, choking hazards and serious bodily harms. And, inedible and toxic plants like holly or mistletoe can be deadly. When arranging holiday décor, keep in mind the possibility of a toppled tree, broken ornaments and decorations. Holiday ribbons, wreaths and garland can cause choking and intestinal blockage, and electrical cords can cause shocks and burns.

For many, the center of holiday decorating is a Christmas tree. If you choose a natural tree:

  • Sweep up fallen needles immediately; they can puncture the digestive tract or injure paws.
  • Change tree water often. Stagnant water holds bacteria that cause nausea or diarrhea.
  • Prevent your pet from drinking tree water that contains poisonous fertilizer or preservatives.

Control the Commotion

The hustle-and-bustle of the holiday season may be too much for your pet. Provide a quiet space for him or her to get away from the action. A new chew toy for a dog or scratching post for a cat also can provide an effective distraction. If holiday stress becomes overwhelming for both of you, consider a long walk to burn off the calories and some extra cuddles.

child hugging dog in winter snow

Keep Your Pet Warm This Winter

While cats and dogs are covered with a fur coat, they are not immune to winter’s chill. Bring pets inside or provide warm shelter that is off the ground and protected from the wind when the weather turns frightful. Small dogs and those with short fur also can benefit from a sweater or coat during times outdoors. After walking your dog, clean paws of salt, snow and ice crystals to prevent injury or accidental poisoning.

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