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Pets And Holiday Decorations

At this most wonderful time of the year, we surround ourselves and our animal companions with the decorations and trimmings of the season. For those of us who share a home with dogs and cats, we must be aware of the risks and dangers our decorations can bring to our pets. While tinsel, ornaments, and lights bring good cheer, they also offer potential harm to our pets.

Tinsel is a very attractive toy for cats and dogs alike. It’s shiny and wispy, it dangles, and its something new to play with. Can we really expect our pets to pass up such temptation? Cats are especially tempted, but cats and tinsel can be a very dangerous combination. In the worst case, tinsel can cause serious injury, and may even prove fatal to a cat.

Cats just playing with tinsel isn’t anything to worry about, but if a cat eats tinsel it can get wrapped around their tongue, or be ingested into the digestive tract and may cause a serious condition known as a linear foreign body. All string-like objects such as tinsel, sewing thread, dental floss, and fishing line, pose a danger to our pets if ingested.

Here’s what happens when tinsel is ingested. While it is possible for string-like objects to pass safely through the entire digestive tract, it is more likely that some portion of the object will become entangled along the digestive tract while the rest remains free to move along. The normal rhythmic movement of the intestines known as Peristalsis moves the free portions of the object through the digestive tract and in the process sets up a sawing action; with the entangled end fixed and the free end moving, the middle portions of the object can become embedded in the intestinal wall and may eventually cut through the intestine, resulting in the intestinal contents being released into the abdomen. This condition is not only extremely painful, it may prove to be fatal without prompt and appropriate treatment, which may be an emergency surgery.

If you see tinsel or any string-like object hanging from your pet’s rectum, or if your pet is vomiting, lethargic, or not eating bring them immediately to San Diego Pet Hospital for veterinary examination. Delay in cases of a linear foreign body can lead to complications such as dehydration and greater damage to the intestines. If you see tinsel or any string-like object hanging from your pet’s rectum DO NOT pull on it! If you pull on it greater damage may be caused. Leave the object in place and bring your pet to us immediately for examination and treatment.

Of course as Benjamin Franklin once said: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. As good companions and caretakers for our pets, you may wish to consider not using tinsel or other stringed decorations in your home. Yes, while it’s true that they might not eat it, there is no guarantee. If we consider the safety of our pets, the best choice may be to simply not use these types of objects as decorations.

Happy Holidays!