5 Holiday Items Your Dog Should Avoid

The holiday season is a great time to be a pet parent, but it can also be a stressful time. Taking simple precautions with commonly used items is extremely important in keeping your dog both safe and happy. Some things that you should keep your dog away from may surprise you, but once you know about them, you are one step closer to maintaining your dog's safety and health through the happiest time of the year.

#1: Bread Dough

Rising bread dough may seem harmless, but it can be a killer if your dog gets hold of it. Even after being swallowed, the dough will continue to ferment and expand in the dog’s stomach. This can lead to severe intestinal gas. In some cases, the dough will expand to such a size that it cannot exit the stomach. Watch your dough! If your dog swallows the stuff, call your vet.

#2: Chocolate

Most people know by now that chocolate is toxic to dogs. It contains theobromine—a substance similar to caffeine—which dogs have trouble metabolizing. However, the level of toxicity depends not only on the amount consumed and the size of the dog, but also upon the kind of chocolate involved. The least dangerous is white chocolate, and the most dangerous are cocoa beans. Other types of chocolate (milk, dark) fall somewhere in between. Mild signs of toxicity include vomiting, excessive thirst and urination, and diarrhea. More serious effects are restlessness, hyperactivity, panting, twitching, or even seizures. It is possible for dogs to die from chocolate poisoning.

#3: Cleaning Products

Cleaning products--especially toilet bowl cleaners, caustics like Drano and Ajax, and pine oils--are dangerous to your pet. All bleach and detergents are unsafe as well. Many of these products destroy tissue on contact, and pine oils can cause severe systemic disease. Keep all containers tightly closed and locked away from your dog. Luckily, most dogs do not find cleaning agents very attractive. If your dog is exposed to cleaning products, flush his skin or mouth with plain water to wash away the remaining chemicals, then call your vet.

#4: Grapes & Raisins

Grapes can cause kidney failure in dogs, although so far only about 10 grape-poisoned dogs have been officially reported to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. The amount of grapes or raisins ingested has been between 9 ounces and 2 pounds; however, even a single snack-sized raisin package can induce symptoms. Keep them away from your pet. If he does swallow a large number of grapes, take him to the vet—he may need blood tests and intravenous fluids. Your vet may want to induce vomiting, pump the stomach, or give activated charcoal.

#5: Christmas Trees

The biggest danger to dogs during the Christmas season is the Christmas tree. To ensure a safe holiday, place the tree near an outlet so you don’t have long, tempting electrical cords for the dog to chew. Any visible cords should be taped down. It is best to anchor the tree to the ceiling or wall with hooks and clear fishing line, so the dog doesn’t grab it and start pulling it around the house. Some decorations, including angel hair, flocking, and artificial snow, are all somewhat toxic as well.

Remember to attach ornaments with a bit of ribbon or string rather than hooks. And place tempting chewable ornaments (or glass ones) well out of reach. No ornament is completely safe if it can be swallowed. Tinsel and garlands can be especially dangerous; dogs tend to swallow them, and they then get stuck in the intestine, which means dangerous and expensive surgery. Always sweep up pine needles, since they can irritate the mouth and perforate a dog’s intestines.

Tree preservatives, which are sugar based and therefore tempting to dogs, are also dangerous. There’s no telling what else may be lurking in the tree water (bacteria, fertilizers, insecticides, and flame-retardants are all possibilities). Cover the tree stand with a skirt and supervise your dog.

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