Holiday pet safety: Tips for keeping our furry friends full of cheer

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) The holidays are full of fun, food, and festive décor. Something we look forward to, and gather together to celebrate.

Caitlin Francis, WDBJ7

But for our pets, this time of year can often be a dangerous one, full of toxins.

“They tend to kind of find their way into the house during the decorating and the festivities in ways that people don’t necessarily think,” said Dr. Jennifer McFarling, Medical Director at the Roanoke Valley SPCA.

Things like ornaments on a tree can be one of those hazards.

“The garland, the tinsel. Tinsel is something, for some reason, cats love to eat, and it goes in one piece and it gets entangled in their intestines. It’s just not a good mix,” said Sylvie Peterson, Director of Community Engagement at the Roanoke Valley SPCA.

Pets can get tangled in light cords. Those strings can even be an electrocution hazard. Holiday plants pose as another problem.

“Things like holly, mistletoe, poinsettia, things of that nature can cause G.I. upset, vomiting and diarrhea if they’re nibbled on,” said Dr. McFarling.

Other things we may not think about that could potentially be harmful to our pets are food and snacks left out, like bowls of nuts and candy.

“In general, it’s best not to offer table scraps. A lot of the foods that we all are eating this time of year tend to be high in fats and salt and things that can be pretty problematic for our animals,” Dr. McFarling said.

Chocolate is one of those things most of us are aware can be harmful to pets, and another thing to look out for is something called xylitol.

Xylitol is an additive found in things like sugar free gum, even peanut butter, so experts recommend reading labels carefully.

Experts say lay ground rules for guests, and watch kids closely to make sure they’re not feeding pets that holiday turkey or ham either.

“Just watch for those bones because a lot of people think ‘Oh in the wild, you know, they’ll eat a whole deer. You know they’ll do whatever.’ They’re not wild animals. They’re domesticated animals, so they can get a splintered bone caught in their trachea, caught in their stomach, piercing their stomach. So things that you think, ‘They’ll be fine because their ancestors were fine.’ They’re not their ancestors, they’re domesticated animals,” Peterson said.

“If you do have a holiday gathering maybe go ahead and take your pets and put them in a separate room…” Peterson said. “And maybe just taking them out of that element will avoid any possible harm.”