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Food and decorations that light up our holiday spirits can be dangerous for pets.

Holiday indulgences

Avoid sharing food from the holiday buffet. Anything rich or fatty can cause an upset stomach or a more serious illness such as pancreatitis which can cause severe pain, vomiting and dehydration.

Uncooked meat, fish, and poultry can contain disease-causing parasites and bacteria, such as E. coli. Poultry bones are also a risk for choking or if swallowed, tearing your pet's intestinal tract.

Another definite no-no is alcohol. While many pets are attracted to sweet drinks, especially egg nog, alcohol is extremely toxic. In fact, hundreds of dogs and cats die annually from alcohol consumption.

Tobacco products can also be fatal, if ingested. Signs of poisoning develop fairly quickly, usually within 15 to 45 minutes, and include excitation, salivation, vomiting, and diarrhea. Pets can also develop seizures or cardiac arrest. Cigarettes, cigars, tobacco, nicotine gum and patches, and ashtrays should always be kept out of reach.

Yet another risk comes from the sweet table. Chocolate, coffee, and tea all contain a dangerous substance called xanthines which can cause nervous system or urinary system damage and heart stimulation.

Other foods to be concerned about:

-- Uncooked yeast dough. It can actually expand in your dog or cat's digestive system, causing pain and possible rupture of the stomach or intestines.

-- Grapes and raisins contain a toxin which can damage the kidneys.

-- Macadamia nuts are also toxic and can affect the digestive and nervous systems and muscles of your pet.

And remember to clear all plastic or aluminum foil food coverings from countertops. Meat-soaked strings, a tempting nibbly for your pet, can cause a surgical emergency called a 'linear string foreign body' in the intestines.

Finally, be sure to pet-proof all garbage.

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Cynthia Ross Cravit