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Keep pets healthy, safe during holidays

BATON ROUGE — Holidays bring families and friends together, but can also mean potential hazards for pets. Table foods, ornaments and other holiday items can be harmful to cats and dogs, according to the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine news release. Every year veterinarians at the LSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital see an increase in a variety of digestive diseases during the holiday season.
The holidays are a great time to cook with and enjoy chocolate; however, chocolate is very toxic to pets and can cause gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and neurologic disease including vomiting, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, overexcitation and seizures. If you think your dog may have ingested chocolate, signs to watch for include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, agitation, increased thirst, an elevated heart rate and in severe cases, seizures, according to the release.
Many decorations usually involve electrical cords. Check to make sure pets are not chewing on them, as electric shock may have devastating consequences. Also, some pets may try to eat batteries.
Candy wrappers, aluminum foil, plastic wrap or ribbons can lead to serious problems if eaten by dogs or cats. Tinsel is particularly enticing to cats. When ingested in sufficient quantities, tinsel binds into a rope that can cause severe intestinal obstruction and require surgical treatment. Any small decoration or toy poses a swallowing hazard. If a child can choke on small toys or parts, then so can the family dog or cat.
Table food can cause dogs to suffer from acute gastroenteritis (an inflammation of the stomach and intestines) or pancreatitis. In both diseases, dogs experience severe vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and listlessness.
Bones may lead to obstructions in the esophagus, the stomach or the intestine and lead to severe digestive signs. Furthermore, grapes, raisins and onions are foods that dogs and cats should not receive. They are toxic to pets and can cause potentially fatal diseases, such as acute kidney failure, anemia or seizures. Most ornamental plants (such as poinsettias, mistletoe, holly, etc.) can cause stomach upset.
The weather in December and January can be quite chilly even in Louisiana. Remember to bring outside pets inside overnight if a hard freeze is forecast.
If your pet becomes sick or if you think that it may have ingested something harmful, contact your veterinarian immediately. Delays in seeking veterinary help may seriously complicate the problem.
Medical care after-hours is available at the LSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital on Skip Bertman Drive; the hospital is open 24 hours a day and remains open during holidays. Call 225-578-9600 or go to for more information about the Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
The news release says that other resources are the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control at or the Pet Poison Helpline at


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