With the holiday season approaching comes its attendant tree trimmings of glimmering glass ornaments and tinsel so shiny it looks good enough to eat. That is, from a cat's perspective.
"I've had to remove tinsel from more than one animal, and that's more than one animal than I would like to have to deal with," says Mark Russak, a retired veterinarian and immediate past president of the American Animal Hospital Association.
When it comes to keeping pets safe at home, common sense "is really what it boils down to," Russak says. He shared some advice on harmful household items, foods and plants that could threaten the well-being of cats and dogs.
Household items: "Anything that's small that can fit in a dog or cat's mouth will end up inside a dog or cat's mouth," Russak says. Some items to look out for include rubber bands, balloons, cigarette butts, sewing needles, string, ribbons, even panty hose. Also keep pets away from:
Plastic shopping bags: Small pets, particularly cats, can get inside of them and suffocate.
Anything hot: Irons, space heaters, coffee pots can be dangerous; curious pets can jump on them. Also, it's wise to seal off fireplaces with a screen while they're in use.
Chemicals: Use child locks on cabinets. Don't let pets near disinfectants and other chemicals such as ant houses and rodenticides, lawn chemicals and, especially, antifreeze. Russak advises keeping all chemicals out of reach, even if it says "pet safe."
Unsafe snacks: It's best to avoid feeding human food to pets, but if you're going to do it, do so in moderation. "Anything toxic to dogs is toxic to cats, but cats have more discerning palates (and so are less likely to consume something toxic)," Russak says. However, some foods should never be made available to a dog or cat, he said:
Meat fat and bones: Though dogs like to chew on bones, the sharp edges can cut their intestines. Any kind of fatty food can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Avoid feeding them anything spicy.
Chocolate: It's a stimulant that can cause heart and intestinal issues in pets. "(Pets are) going to eat the wrapper and all — it's not going to matter to them," Russak says.
Grapes and raisins: Certain toxins in the fruit can cause kidney failure and other problems that can be lethal in dogs.
Precarious plants: The list is long. Among the most poisonous: azaleas, lilies, oleander, daffodils and milkweed.
Call the vet: If you think your pet is in serious danger, call your veterinarian or an animal emergency hospital immediately.