Carroll County Times
Carroll County Lifestyles

Pet Wise: Keeping pets and guests safe during unusual holiday season

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly turned our world upside down and it has affected almost all aspects of our lives including work, leisure and social activities. We will need to make adjustments on how we will celebrate the holiday season this year with our friends and loved ones by keeping ourselves and our precious pets safe.

It has now been shown that that dogs, cats and other mammals can contract the coronavirus from humans. This may mean limiting the number of guests and not allowing them to pet or even interact with your pets. Symptoms for pets include fever, coughing, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, lethargy, sneezing, discharge from the nose or eyes, vomiting, or diarrhea. A solution for this issue is to relocate pets to “safe rooms” that are already familiar to them, like a bedroom, containing the pet’s comforting possessions and necessities like a cushy bed, safe chew toys or goody-stuffed “Kongs” for dogs, food and water bowls. Cats, too, will need food and water bowls, safe toys, scratching post and a litter box several feet away from the food bowl. Cats and dogs will need separate “safe rooms,” and your guests should not permitted to visit your pets.


Set up a CD player or radio to play quiet music, preferably classical which has been scientifically proven to reduce stress in animals. Calming products like DAP (dog appeasing pheromone) or Feliway for cats can be dispensed from a plug-in diffuser. About an hour before guests arrive take your dog for a walk to allow him to relieve himself and burn off some energy, then have him settle into the “safe room.” Check in on your pets once every hour – no guests allowed.

Responsible pet owners must also consider the safety of their pets during this hectic time of the year. Animal hospitals and pet emergency veterinarian facilities become inundated with animals rushed to them during the holiday season for mishaps that can be preventable. Please follow the tips listed below to protect your pets and prevent holiday tragedies from occurring.


With regard to plants, lilies could be deadly for cats because lilies can cause kidney failure. Mistletoe can cause heart problems but usually causes gastrointestinal upset. Holly, when ingested, may cause vomiting, nausea, diarrhea and lethargy. Poinsettias can irritate the mouth and stomach and may cause mild vomiting or nausea.

Christmas tree hazards include tree preservatives added to water, which can be toxic if ingested. To prevent a tree from being knocked over make sure it is weighted down securely. Cover or hide cords electric cords because when chewed they can cause electrocution. Avoid hanging tinsel, threaded popcorn garlands or ribbon because these tempting items can be fatal to your pet if swallowed. Cats are especially attracted to tinsel. If ribbon or tinsel protrudes from your pet’s mouth or rectum cut it off. Do not try to pull it out because the esophagus or intestines could be seriously damaged. Immediately contact a veterinarian because surgery may be necessary to save your pet’s life. Glass ornaments can cut the tissues of the gastrointestinal tract of a pet if swallowed. Broken ornaments and ornaments with hooks can inflict serious wounds to a pet’s body. Hang delicate ornaments high on the tree and fasten them securely. Keep holiday plants and Christmas trees inaccessible to pets by closing doors to block access or set up barricades like baby gates or other enclosure devices.

Some foods, beverages and ingredients can be harmful.

Fatty foods do more than just contribute to obesity, which is the leading cause of health problems in pets. Drippings from turkey, ham, roast beef or fat trimmings added to a pet’s meal may cause diarrhea, but these fats can also lead potentially fatal pancreatitis. Symptoms include lack of appetite, abdominal pain, vomiting, depression, weakness, hunched appearance, drooling, fever and collapse. Immediate veterinary intervention is warranted to save a pet’s life.

Chocolate and coffee grounds contain the chemical theobromine that may cause seizures and death. Immediate veterinary attention is needed. The caffeine content in both products as well as in teabags can also cause caffeine toxicity. Symptoms include increased and erratic heartbeat, elevated blood pressure and temperature, and seizures.

Alcoholic beverages can kill dogs and cats because animals are more sensitive to alcohol than humans. According to, just 1 tablespoon of alcohol can cause an adult cat to go into a coma and a little more alcohol can result in death. Cough medicine and raw yeast found in unbaked bread dough can also be sources for alcohol. Symptoms include problems with walking or standing, incoordination, drowsiness, slow breathing rate, excessive urination, vomiting or unresponsiveness. The odor of alcohol may be on the pet’s breath.

Grapes and raisins can cause acute kidney failure in dogs. Symptoms include diarrhea, lethargy, increased thirst, abdominal pain, and vomiting that might occur hours to days after the dog has eaten them. Apple seeds and stems, and pits from peaches, cherries, apricots and plums contain cyanide, which deprives a pet’s brain and heart of oxygen causing shock and death. Symptoms include dilated pupils, heavy panting, vomiting, rapid breathing or panting, brick red gums.

Onions and garlic destroy red blood cells in dogs and cats resulting in anemia. If an animal’s red cell count becomes too low, the blood is unable to deliver oxygen to the cells which can result in a pet’s death. Symptoms include lethargy, weakness, muscle incoordination, pale gums, red or brown discolored urine, hyper salivation, occasional vomiting and/or diarrhea. Must be detected early and may require a blood transfusion.


Macadamia nuts can sicken dogs. Symptoms include severe lethargy, vomiting, increased temperature, tremors, stiffened joints, and loss of limb control – particularly the rear legs – for two days after consumption.

Xylitol, a popular artificial sweetener can trigger hypoglycemia or liver failure in dogs. It can be found in candy, gum, mints, peanut butter, toothpaste and other products. Symptoms include weakness, tremors and seizures within 30 minutes after consumption. Liver failure signs might surface eight hours later and can be fatal. A vet must be contacted immediately if a dog is suspected of consuming xylitol.

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The proactive solution to prevent the above scenarios from occurring is to create the “safe rooms” in your home away from the noise, guests, forbidden foods and holiday decorations. This could be set up days before the event to acclimate your pets.

Wishing you and the pets who grace your life a happy and safe holiday season!

Iris Katz serves as a member of the board of directors and as an educational facilitator for the Humane Society of Carroll County. Her column appears on the third Sunday of the month.

Dog license deadline approaching

It is time to purchase your dog’s 2021 dog license. Maryland law and Carroll County code Chapter 90 require all dogs 4 months and older to have a valid rabies inoculation and a current county dog license. In Carroll County, licenses are issued annually and expire on Dec. 31 of each year. The licensing fee in Carroll County ranges between $5 and $25 depending on if your dog is spayed/or neutered. The fee is cheaper if the dog has been spayed/neutered.


The money that citizens pay to license their dogs goes to support the work of the Humane Society of Carroll County to provide care for and re-home thousands of animals the Humane Society sees each year.

If a dog is licensed, it means it is current with its rabies inoculation and a rabies tag is not a dog license. Fines for not having a dog license can be expensive. Dog licenses can be purchased from veterinary hospitals, pet supply stores or you can also purchase your dog’s license online from the Humane Society of Carroll County.

Beat the Dec. 31 deadline. License your dog. It’s the law!