THE HOLIDAY season is one of togetherness, and pets are increasingly a big part of the holiday festivities. During this otherwise joyous season, a few pet dangers are lurking, though. This info will help keep your pet safe during all the fun and avoid expensive trips to the pet ER.

Food. The biggest holiday threats to pets come from the same threats to your waistline. To you, it may just mean another hour on the stair stepper, but to your dog, human food can cause real problems. Vomiting and diarrhea are common side effects from eating too much people food, and in some cases this can proceed to a more serious condition called pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, the gland that makes digestive enzymes as well as insulin. When the pancreas becomes inflamed, it releases these enzymes and begins digesting itself. This can be a serious and painful condition that often requires hospitalization. It is probably a good idea to either keep pets confined during any holiday parties, or make sure that guests (especially kids) know not to give treats to your pets. Dogs and cats have been known to drag an entire turkey off the counter when the owner's back is turned, so make sure you stay aware of their whereabouts during meal preparation. If you do want to include your pet in the meal and fun, stick to a bit of lean turkey and low- or no-fat veggies (no onions, though, as these can cause anemia in dogs and cats), and skip the gravy, dressing and pecan pie. Sugar-free items that contain xylitol are also toxic to pets.

Booze. Your dog or cat's liver is not equipped to process alcohol, and even small amounts can be life-threatening. Put boozy party leftovers well out of reach. That includes whisky-soaked fruitcakes, trifles laced with liqueurs and the rum balls that Aunt Martha sends every year.

Open doors. People come and go much more during the holidays than other times of year, and all that traffic can lead to plenty of opportunities for escape. In the ER, we see many pets who made a break for freedom when Uncle Floyd came a-callin' with his special tuna surprise. Dogs and cats can dart out the door without anyone even noticing, and there's a whole big world of hurt just waiting for them out there. Ensure that pets are safely put away when you are expecting guests, and make a nightly head count to make sure that all the furry family members are accounted for before turning in for your visions of sugar plums. Here's hoping you have a sane season, and that all family members make it through safely, no matter how many legs they have.