Keep Holidays Merry & Safe

If it’s shiny, it could be deadly for your cat. Embers crackling in the fireplace; presents stacked three feet high around the Christmas tree; sparkling lights and lush poinsettias all ring in the holiday spirit and close family ties. But the ornaments that give Christmas it’s sparkle and cheer can also give your cat a severe upset stomach or worse. Each season our emergency room is popping with stricken pets that have a field day with tree decorations, gift wrapping and anything else that is stringy, shiny and moving. Unfortunately, pet owners don’t often notice if something is wrong until after the presents have been opened and scattered around the room, and holiday objects have been swallowed by the cat or dog. The main culprits: ribbon, mistletoe, poinsettias, chemically treated water to preserve the tree, uncovered lighting wires, and one of the biggest offenders – tinsel. Cats love tinsel because it’s wavy, shiny and moves like string – their favorite kind of object. If a cat ingests tinsel it faces a cascade of digestive mishaps that could be fatal. Tinsel gets into the stomach and forms a wad that gets anchored there, even though digestive juices attempt to push the tinsel down. Peristalsis plays it’s part by separating out different tinsel lengths in attempts to move them through the digestive tract, just like food or water. But, individual pieces of tinsel that enter the small intestine will cause it to ‘accordion up’. The tinsel pieces become taut and actually cut through the intestine, which leads to sepsis or inflammation of the abdominal lining. Either condition can be fatal. Your cat will not be able to cough up the tinsel because it’s stuck. She may try to vomit but that won’t bring it up either, even though the vomiting will continue. The cat will gradually stop eating, will be a lot quieter and won’t be playful or show affection. If you think your cat has swallowed tinsel or other holiday object, take them to the nearest animal emergency room immediately. Water mixed with chemicals to preserve the Christmas tree can also be toxic and cause seizures, kidney failure, comas or death, or at the very least an upset tummy, diarrhea and dehydration. When cats bite into electric cords they get shock lung, where fluid immediately flows into the lungs and they basically drown. The cat won’t be able to breathe and will turn blue. To prevent holiday injuries to your pets, deny any access or don’t use tinsel or ribbons at all for trees and gifts. Cover tree water, and tape down and cover wires. And keep mistletoe and poinsettias out of reach. Try garlands instead – any linear object that is too wide for your cat to ingest.

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