The holidays can be a dangerous time for pets whose owners don't protect them from the hazards of the season. But the dangers are easy to avoid, once you know what they are.
Some holiday hazards:
*People food. How can you resist slipping your pet a little piece of skin or fat while you're carving the holiday turkey? What harm could a few chips do? Resist your urges, or your pet could be spending the holiday at the emergency clinic.
Fatty or spicy foods -- indeed, anything your pet's not accustomed to -- can trigger a bout of intestinal upset. In mildest cases, it means cleaning up a mess or two in the house. In the worst cases, a fatty treat can trigger a serious inflammation of the pancreas or intestine, and that means a trip to the vet. Fatty foods are especially risky to old, overweight or chronically ill pets.
*Foreign bodies. Most people know better than to give chicken bones to a pet, but even the largest turkey bones are likewise off-limits. Poultry bones splinter easily, and if one pierces the lining of your pet's intestine, the result could be deadly.
While poultry bones are out, some beef bones can be safely substituted. Knucklebones and oxtails stand up to vigorous gnawing. One caveat: Some dogs prefer to eat bones rather than just chew on them, and if you've got one of those, keep an eye out to make sure the bones aren't causing internal problems.
*The Christmas tree is full of hazards. Tinsel can be an appealing target for play, but it can twist up an animal's intestines if ingested. Ornaments, too, are deadly in the mouths -- and stomachs -- of pets, and even the water at the base of the tree contains secretions that could at the very least cause a stomachache.
The best way to handle the situation is by making the tree off-limits to your pets unless you're there to watch and keep them out of trouble.
*Poisons. Holiday plants may look intriguing to your pet, but some seasonal greenery is poisonous. And before you share your holiday candy with your pet, be aware that chocolate is toxic to dogs, and may be deadly to the tiny dog that gets a good-sized piece. Again, the best treatment is prevention.
Ms. Spadafori is a newspaper reporter and an animal obedience trainer in Sacramento, Calif. Questions about pets may be sent to her c/o Saturday, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278