The tree glistening with tinsel, the bowls of chocolates on the coffee table and the holly-jolly poinsettias in the foyer — you see it as your joyously decorated holiday home.
But for pets, it’s a minefield of terror, ready to lure your dogs and cats with its vibrant colors and then poison them.
Christmas-season plants such as lilies, holly, poinsettia and mistletoe are all toxic for dogs and cats. And common holiday treats such as chocolate, walnuts and even fatty meats are either poisonous for pets or can cause serious digestive problems. Most pet owners realize that, to one degree or another, but they may not stop to think about things like glass ornaments or tinsel, said Renee Peery, a veterinary technician at Animal Medical Service of Yakima. Tinsel or ribbon can become entwined in a pet’s intestinal tract and cause serious complications.
“Tinsel is darn deadly,” she said.
Pets who have gotten into holiday foods or decorations are common patients this time of year at Animal Medical Service, Peery said. They’re also common at Terrace Heights Family Pet Clinic, where veterinarian Michael Hayes starts seeing them as early as Thanksgiving each year.
“There are several layers of concern,” he said. “Some animals explore their environments with their mouths. Dogs, and sometimes even cats, they’ll chew on things and swallow them. ... If there’s a new plant that’s brought in, they’re going to be curious. They’ll nibble on it and then chew it or swallow it.”
Fret not, though, pet owners who want to show Christmas spirit; it is possible. You just have to take the pets into consideration.
“I had a puppy owner in yesterday,” Hayes said. “And they wanted to know what to do. I said, ‘You have to puppy-proof the home.’ Puppies are the worst; they’re like babies. You can’t trust a puppy, if you’re not around, to be left with all of your ornaments and food items.”
That means securing things like holiday plants out of reach of pets and not leaving them alone near the tree. It means keeping your holiday treats like chocolate and nuts in sealed containers that dogs can’t get into. It means using plastic ornaments on the low branches of your tree.
“Our advice — and my personal trick — is that nothing breakable goes below eye-level,” Peery said.
It’s also important, particularly at this time of year, to take note of changes in your pets’ behavior, Hayes and Peery said. Vomiting and diarrhea are obvious signs that something is wrong, but pets can be in serious trouble without ever showing obvious signs.
“If they’re inactive or if they’re just not feeding much, those are signs,” Hayes said.
If you suspect something is wrong, call your vet, he said.
• Pat Muir can be reached at 509-577-7693 or firstname.lastname@example.org.