Deadly treats
Christmas can be dangerous for pets

Kirsten Larsen
Northern News Services

NNSL (Dec 16/98) - Pets love to share in the holiday cheer of the Christmas season, but sometimes their taste for good cheer can be hazardous to their health.

Chocolate, tinsel and tree ornaments are the treats favoured by cats and dogs, but their appetite for the deadly desserts can be curbed by precautionary planning.

Pets will naturally investigate the packages under a tree and if anything smells remotely edible, it is hard for some to resist. Chocolate, though a fulfilling treat for humans, can result in severe illness and coma for pets.

"People forget that chocolate is toxic," said Jo-Ann Cooper, owner and manager of Borealis Kennels and Specialties. "It shouldn't be wrapped (and) under the tree where (pets) are investigating."

Although the Great Slave Animal Hospital has not admitted any animals suffering from toxic shock this season, Dr. Tom Pisz, owner and head veterinarian at the hospital expects a few cases will be spring up over the holidays.

"Every year we have some," said Dr. Pisz.

It is also common for the staff to remove indigestible and damaging Christmas ornaments and tinsel from the digestive tracts of animals.

"Puppies are quite inquisitive and a lot of people find out the hard way from decorating their trees with tinsel and glass balls," said Cooper. "It's shiny and looks good and they ingest it and it's an emergency trip to the vet and that's cats, too."

Cooper speaks from experience when she suggests people leave the bottom foot of the tree bare if pets are in the house.

"It's happened to me with my (two puppies)," said Cooper. "They ate all the glass balls off the bottom of the tree. The (puppies) were alright, nothing much happened but I was one of the lucky ones. Some aren't quite so lucky."

Dr. Pisz noted tinsel should not be used on the tree at all.

"Tinsel has sharp edges and cuts the intestines," said Pisz. "It leads to infection and the (animals) die."

Moderation should be also be used when feeding pets table scraps.

"Overfeeding of (table food) can lead to pancreatitis," said Dr. Pisz. "That's from too much high protein and fatty food."

Shocking surprises can be avoided by removing temptation from the reach of pets.

"Electrical cords shouldn't dangle," said Pisz. "Make sure they are somewhere they (pets) can't chew it."