OGDEN -- This season, before you unwrap the Christmas ham and decorate the tree, keep in mind the safety of your four-legged family members.
For furry friends, this time of year can spell trouble, from toxic plants and foods to tempting ornaments and power cords used to decorate. With some early planning and a watchful eye, however, you and your pet can have a safe and happy holiday.
Dr. David Hyde and Dr. Scott Van Dyke, veterinarians at Erz Animal Hospital in South Ogden, offer some advice.
The aroma of a holiday dinner not only stimulates our appetites, but it can also get our cat and dog drooling for a bite. However, Hyde and Van Dyke say it's best to keep the meat on the table and out of pets' reach.
"Bones are never good, and bird bones are especially troublesome because they are so easily broken up," Hyde said. "It's not unusual for a dog to get a serious impaction from bone fragments."
In addition, filling a plate with leftovers for pets is never wise.
"That's not the best thing to do because there can be ingredients in the food that can make them very ill," Hyde said. "I see at least 10-plus cases every holiday where a pet has eaten something that has made them very ill, even with life-threatening problems."
Some of the worst foods to share with dogs and cats include grapes and raisins, which are frequently used in stuffing. Both foods have the potential to cause kidneys to shut down in some animals, Van Dyke said. The reason is unknown.
Onions are also very dangerous to both cats and dogs. Thiosulphate, found in onions, is toxic and can cause hemolytic anemia, a condition that damages the red blood cells. Onion toxicity can cause a pet's red blood cells to burst.
Other foods to keep away from your animals are macadamia nuts, avocados, raw bread dough and chocolate, the veterinarians say. The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is to your pet.
"It's also a good idea to keep meat wrappings out of reach," Hyde said. "When I was a kid, my dog died after eating the mesh wrapping around the ham.
"The bag or wrapping smells like the meat, and they are very enticing to your animals, so it's best to keep them out of reach. And don't think they won't get them out of the garbage can, because they will. Dogs, especially, will eat anything and everything."
Alcohol has the same effect on pets as it does on humans and can cause alcohol poisoning in animals.
Power cords can also cause problems. Both veterinarians say they see, fairly regularly, injuries caused by dogs and cats chewing on holiday-related cords. Try to conceal the cords as much as possible.
Ribbon and tinsel, while not poisonous, are attractive to pets, especially cats.
"Cats love to play with string, and tinsel is one of those dangling decorations that can be very tempting," Hyde said. "But they can result in some pretty serious problems in the intestinal tract that requires immediate attention."
Bright ornaments can also make your pet curious, and many animals will chew and swallow them. Place glass and paper ornaments high on the tree, and pick up any broken pieces, which can lacerate your pet's mouth, throat and intestines besides presenting a choking hazard.
Place holiday plants high off the ground. Holly, mistletoe, pine needles, poinsettias, Christmas cactus and even water from the tree can all pose serious problems, including vomiting, diarrhea, trembling, difficulty breathing, hallucinations, lethargy and even death.
In fact, a single leaf from any variety of lily is lethal to felines.
And finally, while it's fun to have family and friends over for the holidays, it could stress out your pet, especially if it's not used to strangers or isn't overly sociable. That added stress can actually cause your pet to become ill.
In addition, visitors may unknowingly leave a door open, allowing your pet to escape and become lost.
"Some animals do very well in a social setting with a lot of people, but for some pets, it's a very stressful time," Hyde said. "If that's the case, keep them apart from the party or confined to a warm, safe and comfortable place during those visits."
And keep them warm.
"There are some dogs who can handle any kind of temperature," Hyde said. "Some huskies love to go outside and lie there in a blizzard, but for others, it can be very miserable.
"The best thing to do throughout the winter is to use common sense. Keep a close eye on your pets and take precautions so everyone can enjoy the season."