By Dr. Julie Damron
Stockton Record December 6th, 2008

Sparkling lights, glittering ornaments and a table full of fatty goodies may be reasons to celebrate for people, but for pets, these things could be lethal. The holiday scene, although warm and friendly, can be full of dangers for your dog or cat. Please keep this in mind to keep the season fun and safe for your cherished companions.

Tinsel from the tree, small ornaments and ribbon from presents can cause significant to life-threatening digestive problems when eaten, ranging from diarrhea to blockages and intestinal tears. This is true for cats and dogs, who admire the shiny decorations just like we do. If you decorate the upper branches of your tree, you are less likely to have problems.

The electrical cord also can be a serious hazard. Electric shock not only burns animals' tongues, it also can cause a fluid buildup in their lungs and can result in death. You can cover the cords with duct tape to minimize issues.

Water from the Christmas tree can be toxic from preservative or fertilizer and can result in diarrhea when consumed. The pine needles are like small daggers and can cause punctures or rips if swallowed. It's a good idea to attach your tree to the ceiling to prevent it from being knocked over.

Holly can cause severe vomiting, diarrhea and depression when ingested.

Poinsettias are not as toxic, but the sap acts as an irritant, and can trigger drooling and vomiting.

Mistletoe can cause digestive and heart problems.

The fire is warm and cozy, but it can also cause burns if your pet gets too close. Fur can catch fire easily from stray embers. Make sure your fireplace has a good screen to minimize problems.

The candles on the table can become a hazard if knocked over by a curious cat or small dog. These small animals also can easily get singed when moving around the candle sticks.

Chocolate can be very harmful. The darker the chocolate, the higher the level of the chemical methylxanthines. Baking chocolate contains the highest level of methylxanthines. Signs can include hyperactivity, incoordination, a rapid heart rate, arrhythmia, seizures and even death.

Macadamia nuts can cause vomiting, depression, muscle weakness and other problems.

Food from the table that is salty, spicy or high in fat can trigger diarrhea and vomiting or more serious problems such as pancreatitis. It is best to give your companions only pet-approved treats.

Turkey and chicken bones can break easily into tiny, sharp shards that cause punctures or lodge in your pet's throat or intestine if eaten.

Julie Damron is a veterinarian at Sierra Veterinary Clinic. Read all her columns at Contact her at [email protected]