Colorado State University veterinarians offer holiday safety tips for pet owners

With the holiday season just around the corner, here are some precautions pet owners should take into consideration.

• Pets may not be accustomed to additional activity in the home during the busy holidays – and all of that action may impose additional stresses on our pets.

• It is ideal to provide a safe and comfortable environment for our pets during parties and activities. Your pet will welcome a quiet space where they can rest. This can be created by putting your pet in a quiet room and providing them with bedding, food, water and toys.

Cats appreciate a place to hide. Be sure they have access to their litter box.
Decrease surrounding noise by playing music or turning on the TV. Check on them often, and provide them frequent bathroom breaks.

Drinking or eating unusual things can cause gastrointestinal upset, toxicity, pancreatitis or serious gastrointestinal complications that may require surgery.
Keep garbage secure such as under a cabinet or in a pantry.

Make sure all decorating materials are out of reach. Some cats especially like string or tinsel from Christmas trees, which is hazardous if ingested.
Do not allow your pet to drink out of the Christmas tree basin.

Seasonal plants, such as ivy, holly and mistletoe, are poisonous to our four-legged friends. For a complete list of toxic plants, visit

Many human foods are not ideal for animal consumption and can cause mild to severe illness if ingested; do not allow guests to feed human food to pets. A brief list of potentially dangerous items used in holiday cooking includes:

• Chocolate: especially dark and baking, but all varieties should be avoided. Symptoms: vomiting, diarrhea, increased urination, restlessness, respiratory distress, cardiac arrhythmias, seizures, coma and death.

• Caffeine. Symptoms are similar to chocolate toxicity.
Onions, leeks, shallots and chives. Symptoms: anemia may occur immediately or several days after ingestion.

• Garlic: Toxic levels are unknown but believed to be at higher concentrations. Symptoms: vomiting, diarrhea, anemia, increased heart rate, liver damage, increased bleeding, asthma attacks and skin irritation.

• Avocado: especially the seed and leaves. Symptoms: vomiting and diarrhea. If the seed is eaten it can cause a gastrointestinal obstruction.

• Xylitol: a sugar substitute found in sugar-free candies, chewing gun and baked goods. Symptoms: vomiting, seizures and liver failure.

• Grapes (and raisins). Symptoms: vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, lethargy and anorexia.

• Mint flavors. Symptoms: excessive salivation, weakness, coma, change in behavior and urination.

•Varieties of nuts.

• Animal bones. Bones can splinter or cause GI impaction that may lead to other complications.

Every animal reacts differently and not all poisonings require the same treatment. If your animal has ingested something that is potentially harmful, do not induce vomiting until you have consulted a veterinarian or the National Animal Poison Control Center (NAPC) at 1-888-426-4435.

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