Recently, I attended a party where the hosts' two dogs roamed around at will. Not only did I feel uncomfortable holding my plate high above my head, but also several other partygoers -- a couple of whom are dog owners themselves -- expressed dismay over these annoying "guests."
More importantly, however, we were all concerned the animals would gobble any and everything they could reach -- a potentially dangerous pastime. Therefore, while not a consumer problem, at the request of a few and with an explanation for our hosts, I decided to research the risks and devote this week's column to the hazardous holiday eating habits of pets, especially the canine variety.
In the kitchen:
* Tinfoil, meat strings and toothpicks if swallowed can cause serious digestive problems.
* Also if ingested, dough can expand in the stomach and cause severe problems.
* Chocolate, coffee and tea are very toxic for dogs; even small amounts can cause diarrhea, seizures or death. Unsweetened baking chocolate and dark chocolate are most dangerous.
* Cooked or uncooked bones can tear or obstruct the digestive system so watch out when divvying up that turkey.
* Spicy, greasy or sweet foods can cause pancreatitis, a serious inflammation of the pancreas (humans, too) which can be fatal.
* Remind guests to keep glasses of alcoholic beverages out of pets' reach and put away glasses after parties. A small amount of alcohol can be fatal.
* Keep garbage containing discarded food covered, out of reach, and take outside as soon as possible.
* Plastic wrapping can obstruct the digestive system and cause severe problems if swallowed.
* Secure Christmas trees to prevent toppling. Keep your dog or cat away from fallen pine needles or even artificial tree needles; they can be toxic or cause stomach irritation.
* Christmas tree water can contain poisonous pine tar or tree preservatives.
* Tinsel, ornaments, ornament wire hangers, angel hair, artificial snow, candles, and ribbon can all cause serious problems if swallowed. Many dogs think ornaments are toys and want to play with them.
* Christmas lights can cause digestive upsets or electrocution if chewed.
* Electrical cords can cause electrocution or a fire hazard if chewed.
* Batteries can be toxic and cause intestinal obstruction if swallowed.
* While dressing Jazzy up as Mr. or Mrs. Claus makes for an adorable photo, be sure the outfit doesn't bind or constrict, block the animal's vision or have pieces that can cause choking if swallowed.
* Almost all Christmas plants, including holly leaves and berries, poinsettias and mistletoe are poisonous or irritating to dogs if swallowed.
So keep your pets safe, your kiddies safer, and regardless of your faith, culture, or inclination, have a very Merry Christmas!
Editor's Note: Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at www.timesfreepress.com under Local Business. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org