Ten Tips for Cleaning Up After the Holidays and Avoiding Hazards for Your Pets

BY JACQUELINE A. NICHOLSON, DVM, Valley Cottage Animal Hospital

1 2The holidays have come and gone and now it’s time for the big clean up. Believe it or not, this time can be quite hazardous for family pets. Taking a little extra care to clean up properly can avoid some common mistakes that often end up with a run to the vet.

Holiday lights are an attraction for pets to chew on but present a shock hazard if chewed on. Check all cords for chew marks, loose wires, and any sign of short circuits. Electric shock can cause oral burns, difficulty breathing, heart arrhythmias and death. Checking the lights as you are putting them away can quickly identify whether they have already been used as a toy by your pet. Throw away any damaged items and be sure to pick them up off the floor as quickly as possible.
Tinsel, string and ribbons seem to be an endless source of entertainment for pets, but they are dangerous. So while it might be tempting to play with your pet while taking down the tree, it is not a good idea as they can quickly get sick from ingesting these fun, shiny objects.
Candles are a source of light and scent during the holidays, but the flame itself and potpourri type objects can be dangerous and often toxic. Be sure to put away all candles and potpourri holders after the holidays.
Did your pet suffer from diarrhea over the holiday? That could be from getting some extra fatty foods which can result in indigestion or even pancreatitis which could land your pet in the hospital. While you may enjoy holiday foods and extra treats, remember that less is better when it comes to your pets.
Now and all year long also avoid giving your pets anything that contains grapes or raisins as they can both cause kidney failure. Certain kinds of nuts are also toxic, especially macadamia nuts and walnuts. Be sure to vacuum under couches and behind doors to locate any stray food that might be hiding after the holidays.
Chocolate is also quite toxic to dogs and cats. While cleaning out and putting away those holiday stockings, be sure to locate any stray chocolates that may fall out. Theobromine is the toxic component which can cause heart arrhythmias, seizures, and death. If your pet eats any amount of chocolate, contact your veterinarian immediately. It’s helpful if you know what type of chocolate and amount that was ingested.
Some people keep their poinsettias around all year long and while they are not as toxic as previously thought, they do contain a milky sap which can cause severe mouth irritation and stomach upset, so be sure to lift them off the ground or go without if your pet is a climber.
When you are putting away that hanging mistletoe and Holly be sure not to leave any lying around and pick up any stems or greenery that might fall; they are both very toxic to animals. If your pet ingests any part of these plants, contact a veterinarian immediately. These plants can cause vomiting, diarrhea, labored breathing, and death within hours of being eaten.
When you are throwing out the live Christmas tree be sure not to leave the water around where pets can get at it as it often contains fertilizers – and if the water becomes stagnant, it can become a breeding ground for bacteria.
The last tip is a winter reminder to keep all antifreeze locked away from your pets. Many types of antifreeze have a sweet taste and are enticing to pets to ingest. If ingested, antifreeze can cause acute kidney failure and may result in death. Make sure you tend to any automobiles that may be leaking antifreeze onto garage floors.

If you don’t witness your pet eating or coming in contact with anything hazardous, but they are showing signs of illness, contact your veterinarian immediately. Some potential signs include, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, weakness and difficulty breathing. You can also contact the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (at 1-888-4-ANI-HELP), if you know your pet has ingested any toxic substance. With a little caution and diligence, your pets can be safer all year round.