9 Holiday Pet Hazards

Norah Levine Photography/Getty ImagesNorah Levine Photography/Getty ImagesThe holidays are a festive time, but the season brings added dangers for pets. Keep your furry friends away from these items to ensure a merry holiday for all.

By Brigitt Hauck

Keep Your Pets Safe
It's the most wonderful time of the year--until your pet ingests some tinsel or decides to drink from the Christmas-tree water. René Carlson, a veterinarian and the president of the American Veterinary Medical Association, and Tina Wismer, a veterinarian and the medical director at the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, share nine common holiday items that can be hazardous to pets. If you think your dog or cat has been harmed by or consumed one of these, contact your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) immediately.

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Turkey Bones

Even if your dog looks at you with pleading eyes, resist the urge to throw holiday table scraps his way. Rich, fatty foods can cause illness, and ingested turkey bones can splinter and puncture internal organs.

Dangerous for: Leftover food and bones can be harmful to both cats and dogs.

Possible symptoms: Consuming leftover food may cause animals to experience vomiting and diarrhea. Fatty foods can also promote pancreatitis--a potentially dangerous inflammation of the pancreas that produces toxic enzymes and causes illness and dehydration. If swallowed, bones can cause stomach perforation and painful constipation that requires veterinary help.

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Sugar-Free Baked Goods

Holiday cookies might look like a tempting treat for Fido, but the artificial sweetener xylitol, found in some sugar-free baked goods, can cause his blood pressure to drop to dangerously low levels.

Dangerous for: Dogs.

Possible symptoms: Vomiting, lethargy, loss of coordination, seizures, and liver failure may indicate poisoning from xylitol.

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Chocolate

Chocolate, which stimulates the nervous system and the heart, should be kept far away from four-legged friends. Although all chocolate should be avoided, dark chocolate poses a greater risk than sweeter varieties, such as milk chocolate.

Dangerous for:
Mainly dogs. Cats don't have the same "sweet tooth" and aren't as likely to eat dangerous quantities.

Possible symptoms: Consumption of chocolate can cause agitation, vomiting, diarrhea, high heart rate, tremors, seizures, and even death.

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Holiday Plants

Contrary to popular belief, when it comes to pets, poinsettias and Christmas cactus are relatively harmless; if ingested, these plants may cause an irritating reaction in the mouths of dogs and especially cats. Mistletoe and holly, however, can be toxic if ingested.

Dangerous for:
Cats and dogs.

Possible symptoms: Mistletoe and holly may cause vomiting, diarrhea, and heart arrhythmia in both cats and dogs.

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