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Fluffy, don’t eat the ornaments!

Keeping decorations away from pets can save money and grief.
Monday, December 13, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:34 a.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

The tree is decorated, tinsel surrounds the mantel, and mistletoe hangs above the doorway. All the Christmas decorations are up, creating a spirited atmosphere within the house. The only problem is, the cat won’t leave them alone.

Pets can be detrimental to holiday decorations, but the decorations can be just as detrimental to pets.

Ornaments and holiday plants are among the decorations hazardous to pets.

“Glass ornaments are really dangerous. If swallowed, they can cut the GI tract and cause bleeding,” said Jill Mosley, a veterinarian at the Columbia Veterinary Hospital.

One of the most dangerous holiday decorations for pets is tinsel, which can prove deadly.

“If an animal, especially a cat, swallows tinsel, it can get caught at the base of the tongue or as it’s exiting the stomach,” Mosley said. “Then part of it will go through the intestine and part of it stays caught. That requires a surgical correction, so it may kill them.”

Various holiday plants can also be toxic to pets if eaten.

“Poinsettias are probably the most prevalent and the most toxic of holiday plants,” said Josh Hendren, general manager at Columbia Pet Center.

Mosley agrees that holiday plants can cause problems for pets.

“Holly, poinsettias and mistletoe can cause GI upset in animals,” Mosley said.

Pine trees can also pose problems for pets.

“Pine needles can cause pets to have an upset stomach,” Mosley said.

According to Hendren, many products are available to deter pets from eating pine needles.

“There are a lot of different types of repellent that taste bad that you can spray on things,” Hendren said.

Curious cats seem to be the most affected by dangerous holiday decorations.

“It’s mostly cats that are screwing around with the decorations,” Hendren said. “You always hear about cats climbing trees and eating tinsel.”

Dogs are also affected by toxic holiday decorations.

“My dog has a fascination with some of the ornaments on the bottom of the tree,” said Emily Ingram, who has a pet Chihuahua. “But we put the dangerous ornaments up high.”

Keeping dangerous decorations out of pets’ reach is one of the easiest ways to keep pets safe.

“The best thing is to put dangerous things up higher,” Mosley said. “If you’re going to decorate the tree, put more of the cloth or wood ornaments down at the bottom and the glass ones at the top.”

Ornaments aren’t the only things that need to be placed out of pets’ reach.

“We put everything that’s dangerous up on shelves,” Ingram said.

Hendren said it’s easy to keep your pet safe.

“A lot of it is just common sense,” Hendren said. “Just keep things out of reach.”


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