Sunday, December 27, 2009

Tips for a Pet-Safe New Year

Fireworks and noisemakers; confetti and champagne – these are the makings of a successful New Year's bash, and potential hazards for your four-legged family member.

Have a pet-safe New Year Celebration:

Make sure the party favors are pet-safe. If your dog decided to chow down on some confetti, it can cause problems in her digestive track. It is best to forgo confetti altogether if your pup likes to munch on everything and anything, but paper-based confetti is generally safer than plastic or metallic-based varieties.

Don't share the champagne with your dog. And be sure to clean up any glasses that are within your dog's reach. Every year, hundreds of dogs die from alcohol poisoning. Sharing that bubbly beverage with your dog isn't cute, it's dangerous. If you're not sure if your dog has ingested alcohol, knowing the signs can help you realize there is a problem: vomiting, diarrhea, lack of coordination, difficulty breathing, and tremors.

Prepare for your dog's reaction to fireworks and noisemakers. The best plan is prevention. If you're not sure how your dog will react, make sure he is in a safe area and wearing proper id. If you already know your dog has a problem, the best plan is to work on desensitizing your dog throughout the year to the loud noises that may startle him. But if you haven't already done that, there are many other ways to help him cope with the stress on December 31st.

Give your dog a quiet place to retreat from the party. If you're going to have people over to the wee hours of the morning, be aware that it's not just the kids that will get cranky because they stayed up past their bedtimes. Dogs that are not used to the late night schedule or the comings and goings of so many strangers can become stressed. Make sure your dog has an area away from the festivities to escape it all if need be.

Keep emergency contact information handy! During any party where your dog might slip into the trash can unnoticed, it's a good idea to keep contact information for a 24-hour clinic handy, as well as the number for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center National Hotline: 888-426-4435.


  1. Great information - thanks so much for spreading the word on pet safety!

    The holidays and New Years are stressful enough without having to worry about a potentially poisoned pet. Below is a list of holiday-related decorations, plants and food items that the veterinarians at Pet Poison Helpline recommend keeping away from pets.

    • Holiday Ornaments: When decorating for the season, consider your pets. Holiday decorations such as snow globes or bubble lights may contain poisonous chemicals. If your pet chews on them the liquid inside could be could be dangerous to their health. Methylene chloride, the chemical in bubble lights, can result in depression, aspiration pneumonia and irritation to the eyes, skin and gastrointestinal tract.

    • Tinsel: If you own a cat, forgo the tinsel. What looks like a shiny toy to your cat can prove deadly if ingested. Tinsel does not pose a poisoning risk but can cause severe damage to a cat’s intestinal tract if swallowed. Ultimately, cats run the risk of severe injury to, or rupture of their intestines and treatment involves expensive abdominal surgery.

    • Alcohol: Because alcohol is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, it affects pets quickly. Ingestion of alcohol can cause dangerous drops in blood sugar, blood pressure and body temperature. Intoxicated animals can experience seizures and respiratory failure. Additionally, foods such as desserts containing alcohol and unbaked dough that contains yeast should be kept away from pets as they may result in alcohol toxicity, vomiting, disorientation and stomach bloat.

    • Holiday Foods: With the holiday season comes a delightful variety of baked goods, chocolate confections and other rich, fattening foods. However, it is not wise (and in some cases is quite dangerous) to share these treats with your pets. Keep your pet on his or her regular diet over the holidays and do not let family and friends sneak in treats. Foods that can present problems:
    - Foods containing grapes, raisins and currents (such as fruit cakes) can result in kidney failure in dogs.
    - Chocolate and cocoa contain theobromine, a chemical highly toxic to dogs and cats. Ingestion in small amounts can cause vomiting and diarrhea but large amounts can cause seizures and heart arrhythmias.
    - Many sugarless gums and candies contain xylitol, a sweetener which is toxic to dogs. It causes a life-threatening drop in blood sugar and liver failure.
    - Leftover, fatty meat scraps can produce severe inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) leading to abdominal pain, vomiting and bloody diarrhea.

    • Liquid Potpourri: Filling your house with the smell of nutmeg or pine for the holidays may seem inviting—but if you’re partial to heating your scented oils in a simmer pot, know that they can cause serious harm to your cat; even a few licks can result in severe chemical burns in the mouth, fever, difficulty breathing, and tremors. Dogs aren’t as sensitive, but it’s still better to be safe than sorry—so scent your home with a non-toxic candle kept safely out of kitty’s reach.

    When it comes to the holidays, the best thing a pet owner can do is get educated on common household toxins and pet-proof your home accordingly. If you think your pet has been poisoned, contact your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline at 800-213-6680 with any questions or concerns.

    About Pet Poison Helpline
    Pet Poison Helpline is a service available 24 hours, seven days a week for pet owners, veterinarians and vet techs that require assistance treating a potentially poisoned pet. Staff can provide treatment advice for poisoning cases of all species, including dogs, cats, birds, small mammals, large animals and exotic species. As the most cost-effective option for animal poison control care, Pet Poison Helpline’s fee of $35 per incident includes follow-up consultation for the duration of the poison case. Pet Poison Helpline is available in North America by calling 800-213-6680. Additional information can be found online at

  2. Hi,

    Appreciate your input on the subject of pet safety this holiday.