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BATON ROUGE, La. -Holidays bring families and friends together, but don't forget to watch out for your four-legged family members. Holidays can also mean potential hazards for pets. Table foods, ornaments, and other holiday items can be harmful to cats and dogs. Every year veterinarians at the LSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital and Clinics see an increase in a variety of digestive diseases during the holiday season.

1: Avoid feeding them "people food."Table food can cause dogs to suffer from acute gastroenteritis (an inflammation of the stomach and intestine) or pancreatitis. In both diseases, dogs experience severe vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and listlessness. Bones may lead to obstructions in the esophagus, the stomach, or the intestine and lead to severe digestive signs. Furthermore, grapes, raisins and onions are foods that dogs and cats should not receive. They are toxic to pets and can cause potentially fatal diseases, such as acute kidney failure, anemia, or seizures. Most ornamental plants (e.g., poinsettias, mistletoes, holly, etc.) can cause stomach upset.

2. Keep chocolate away from pets. The holidays are a great time to offer, cook with and enjoy chocolate. However, chocolate is very toxic to pets and can cause gastrointestinal, cardiovascular and neurologic disease including vomiting, rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, overexcitation, and seizures. The required treatment can be expensive, therefore you should limit the risk of exposure in the home environment.

3. Prevent pets from chewing cords. Decorating usually involves more electrical cords, so please check to make sure that your pets are not chewing on them, as electric shock may have devastating consequences. Also, some pets may try to eat batteries, so please make sure that they are put away safely.

4. Keep wrappers and small toy parts out of the pet's reach. Candy wrappers, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, or ribbons can lead to serious problems if eaten by dogs or cats. Tinsel is particularly enticing to cats. When ingested in sufficient quantities, it binds into a rope that can cause severe intestinal obstruction and require surgical treatment. Any small decoration or toy poses a swallowing hazard. If a child can choke on small toys or parts, then so can the family dog or cat.

5. Have emergency vet contact information handy. If your pet becomes sick or if you think that it may have ingested something harmful, contact your veterinarian immediately. Delays in seeking veterinary help may seriously complicate the problem.

(Source: Louisiana State University)