THE BLOG
12/10/2014 12:41 pm ET Updated Feb 09, 2015

5 Tips to Keep Your Pets Safe This Holiday Season

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December? Yep, December is here and you know what that means! A busy and joyous month filled with holiday festivities, shopping, decorating, baking and Santa's to-do lists that you better check twice. While December is filled with cheer, it's also filled with dangers for your pets. In fact, it is one of the most dangerous times of the year for your dog Dasher and your cat Blitzen. That's why I called upon Dr. Anthony George, doctor of veterinary medicine and certified veterinary acupuncturist, to guide us through all of the dangers our holiday décor and holiday foods can create for our best four-legged friends. Keep these five jolly activities away from your pooches or felines and they will be as merry as you are all holiday season.

1. Holiday Foods: Many people like to include their furry friend in the festivities by giving them a "sample platter" of the holiday's bounty. This act, unfortunately, can introduce a variety of potential risks to pets. Eating fatty and rich foods can lead to stomach upset and diarrhea. In some dogs, the elderly in particular, calorie-dense foods can potentially lead to inflammation of the pancreas. Chocolate contains methylxanthine, which can cause a variety of symptoms ranging from stomach upset to tremors, hyperthermia and seizures. The darker the chocolate the more dangerous it can be. Grapes, raisins, onions and garlic are also extremely toxic to dogs. And, if you're taking acetaminophen for pre- and post-celebratory aches and pains, bear in mind this medication can pose a tremendous risk to your pets. Commonly found in name brands such as Tylenol and Excedrin, along with many generic cold and allergy remedies, acetaminophen can change the ability of the blood to carry oxygen. If your pet ingests any of these substances, it's always a good idea to contact your local veterinarian. So keep your pets safe by having them celebrate with their regular diets.

2. Festive Plants: Plants and flowers transform any room into a holiday showcase, but also an unforeseen room of danger for curious pets. The usual suspects, poinsettias and American mistletoe, have been considered potentially toxic to pets in the past. However, today it's generally considered unlikely that either one would cause significant ill effects unless ingested in great quantity. Lilies, on the other hand, pose a significant risk to cats. These lovely flowers can dress up any holiday flower arrangement, but all parts of the plant are toxic to cats and can lead to kidney failure. Ingesting even a small amount of the leaves, petals or even pollen can result in severe illness and possibly death. Warning signs include an increase in salivation, depression, loss of appetite and vomiting. Stay clear of these beauties if you have a feline friend.

3. Ribbon: If your dog or cat loves to help you wrap the presents or loves to un-wrap their own present, make sure they don't run off with the ribbon. These colorful strands can wreak havoc if ingested. Once ingested, the intestines can bunch up on the ribbon in an attempt to pass it. If you should happen to see part of the ribbon "exiting" from the hind end, never pull it out, as this can cause it to cut through the intestines. Absolutely, consult with your veterinarian to aid in its removal, whether it's through endoscopy, surgically or manually.

4. The Many Dangerous Layers of the Tree: The Christmas tree is the centerpiece of many holiday homes. However, if you have a cat you may want to lay off the tinsel as it poses the same threat as ribbon does. Electrical cords from the Christmas lights, as well as other holiday decorations, can be an enticing chew toy for a pup or cat. This playful act can lead to severe mouth burns. The electrical conduction of their heart can even be altered, resulting in the accumulation of fluid in the lungs and difficulty breathing. Take measures to prevent your pet from coming into contact with these electrical temptations. Many trees are also fitted with water containers to keep them fresh. This water could contain fertilizer or become stagnant over time. Prevent your pet from drinking from the tree to avoid potential complications.

5. The Impulse Buy: Grandparents, aunts and uncles make sure the entire family actually wants a pet before you present one as a holiday present. Please make sure everyone understands that a pet is a gift for life not just for the holidays. Everyone must be ready for the full-time job of getting the pet acclimated to it's new home. If you're planning on adding a four-legged family member, puppies and kittens aren't the only way to go. Remember to rescue and adopt any age and/or any breed. Many lovable pets looking for a good home can be found on Petfinder.com. Avoid adopting exotic pets, primates and reindeer. Make a pet's life happy this holiday season too by finding it a forever home.