New Article for Tallahassee Family: Safe Holidays for Everyone

As some of you know Dr. Blount is a regular contributor to Tallahassee Family magazine. We asked and got permission from the magazine to post her articles on our site. So this is the first look at her new article, which may look a bit different from the one that is eventually published, but it will still have the same information.

Safe Holiday’s for Everyone

By Elizabeth D. Blount DVM


The holidays mean parties and presents and busy schedules for everyone. We want to bring our pets into the festivities: dress them up for Halloween, have them open presents with the rest of the family; maybe sneak a few scraps from the Thanksgiving table. However; some holiday traditions are dangerous for pets. Chocolate in Halloween and Christmas candy sickens small dogs easily. Chewing on crimson Christmas Poinsettias can cripple a cat. Raisins in Thanksgiving stuffing and desserts damages a dog’s liver. Things that are easily digested by humans will trigger an emergency vet visit and transform nights spent with family and friends into a mad dash to save the family Shih Tzu.

Pets are such a part of everyday lives and so dear to families that it is easy to forget one of the most crucial things about them: that they are not people. They have a digestive system that has not developed in the same way that ours has. They have a unique system that requires special care from their human companions to assure that they do not break into the bag of grapes or snack on Easter Lilies or chew off the bows on Christmas packages. This means that pet guardians must educate themselves on potential dangers at home. Careful attention is needed because we do not think that coffee or garlic are unsafe and it is easy to forget that they can be.

In veterinary medicine we gear up for vomiting, diarrhea and pancreatitis that can result from sharing a meal of leftovers and gravy with your dog. These items are not part of their normal diet and upsets their tummy.  Most ground meats today are contaminated with bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella, so feeding raw or undercooked meat, eggs or those juicy bones give pets more than bargained for.

Most accidental poisonings in pets come from swallowing human medication.  Cats are infinitely sensitive to minor amounts, more so than dogs. I recently treated a cat who ate a tablet of a guest’s heart medication in the home of a client.  Their cat went into kidney failure within 24 hours: no veterinarian could save him. Tylenol is particularly nasty; it is deadly to cats and toxic to dogs in small doses.  Antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications, sleep aids, vitamins and medications for ADHD are all problematic.

Holiday decorations and plants look interesting to our furry family too.  Strings, buckles, bangles and beads are shiny and smell like their favorite people. Cats love to bat ornaments off the Christmas tree, but broken glass cuts little paws; holiday candles burn off cats’ whiskers. An elephantine dog curled up under the branches of our Christmas tree: making the entire thing topple over when he crawled out. Any pet eating string or ribbon usually results in an emergency situation.

Our pets bring such joy to our lives and families.  We want them to share the holiday fun. A few moments looking over our home and activities for potential dangers to furry family members keeps them safe and happy for everyone.



Dr. Elizabeth Blount is the Medical Director and CEO of At Home Veterinary Care Center in Tallahassee, the Big Bend’s most comprehensive pet care facility.