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Protect your four-legged friends November 26, 2005 12:50 PM

Protect your four-legged friends

by Dennis Ryan
Pentagram staff writer

The holidays can be a wonderful time of the year, filled with mistletoe, poinsettias, chocolate, Christmas trees laden with ornaments and tinsel and large amounts of food. All of these items are beloved by people but they can be toxic and even deadly to your cat or dog.

Pets and particularly dogs can get extremely interested in what humans are eating. You may forget you are dangling a piece of chocolate around or feel it is perfectly fine to place a partially eaten chocolate muffin on the coffee table. But Fido is on the floor and patiently waiting for said morsel to fall to the ground or for a treat to be left unattended.

Semi-sweet, milk and dark chocolate all can be poisonous to your animal. Unsweetened baking chocolate contains almost seven times more theobrine as milk chocolate. A smidgen of chocolate, as little as one-quarter of an ounce can cause vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, hyperactivity, increased thirst, urination and heart rate in a 10-pound dog.

No matter how much your lovable pooch begs, avoid giving your pet leftovers. Greasy, fatty and spicy foods can cause upset stomachs.

Watch your overly-full garbage cans. Poultry bones can splinter and cause blockages and spoiled or moldy foods can induce food poisoning.

Most people enjoy a convivial sip of wine or beer during the holidays, but alcohol and pets are a bad mix. Animals can become very sick from ingesting alcohol and even go into a coma or die from respiratory failure.

Watch out for loose cellophane candy wrappers and aluminum foil. They can cause vomiting and intestinal blockage in pets. Cats like shiny things and some love to bat around hard candies.

Felines also love the shiny things hanging from Christmas trees. Ribbons and tinsel can cause intestinal blockage when ingested. Cats are notorious for this.

Be careful in your choice of holiday plants or floral arrangements. Lilies can cause kidney failure in cats. Mistletoe and holly berries are toxic to pets. Poinsettias can cause mild vomiting or nausea.

Once you have placed pet friendly ornaments on your tree remember to keep your pet away from the Christmas tree water. It could contain fertilizers, or if stagnant, could act as a breeding ground for bacteria.

The holiday season may also bring snow and ice. Most dogs love snow, but the salt used on sidewalks can cause their skin to crack and become raw. Remember to wash their feet after returning home.

Some dogs don't mind booties but many pooches take great umbrage at any attempts to shod their feet.

Most of these tips were offered by Dana Farbman of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. One can contact the ASPCA Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 or check them out online at www.apcc.aspca.org.

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