Holiday decorations can endanger pets

Pet owners should be aware of the dangers that lurk among many of the season's shiny ornaments and festive decorations. To keep your holidays free from emergency visits to the vet, follow these tips from the American Kennel Club and to dog-proof your home from potential hazards.

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■ Avoid using food, such as strands of popcorn or cranberries, as decorations. When eaten, these tasty trimmings can cause blockages, which often require surgery to remove.

■ Stay away from shiny ornaments, such as tinsel and glass bulbs. Use plastic ties instead of wire hooks to attach ornaments, and place items that sparkle, or could be swallowed or broken, high up on your tree. Larger, less intriguing ornaments can go near the bottom.

Cats love to eat strings and tinsel. If you notice these items protruding from the cat's rectum, call a veterinarian — do not attempt to remove them.

■ When decorating with holiday lights, remember that exposed indoor or outdoor wires could electrocute a curious pet that chews on it. Tape wires to the wall or sides of the house.

■ Real Christmas trees pose numerous threats to dogs, so consider an artificial tree. If you do buy a natural tree, make sure your pup doesn't swallow the pine needles. Dogs also find the tree water tempting, so be sure to use pet-friendly preservatives in the water.

■ Plants such as poinsettias, holly and mistletoe can be poisonous to pets and should be kept out of reach. Mistletoe can cause vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, muscle tremors, seizure, shock and death.

■ Dispose of all wrapping paper, bows and ribbons as soon as presents are opened. If played with and swallowed, yarn, ribbon or string can cause intestinal obstruction that often requires surgery.

■ Do not give your pet chocolate. Signs of poisoning from chocolate include vomiting and diarrhea, and neurological signs such as disorientation and excitability. The stomach empties about 2-3 hours after ingestion. If your pet has ingested the chocolate in this time frame you may induce vomiting, but contact your veterinarian for instructions.