Holiday Hazards for Pets

The holidays are a time of year we are thankful for the good things in our lives, including the health of our beloved pets.

There are many things that come along with celebrating the holidays that can be harmful to your pets. No one wants to spend their holiday in an emergency situation with their pet, so we’ve made a list of things to be mindful of during the holiday season to keep your pet safe and out of the animal hospital.

  1. Overindulgence – This is a very common hazard during the holidays. We see many pets in with vomiting and diarrhea that have developed pancreatitis due to being fed too many “treats” from the table. Ham, turkey, sweets, gravy, meat drippings, and bacon grease – these are all too high in fat for pets to digest. They cannot process foods the same way we do and it makes them very sick and can even be fatal. We aren’t saying don’t give your pets treats during the holidays. We ask that you give them appropriate treats and not too many. Apple slices, dog biscuits, carrots, a little peanut butter (no xylitol), a little-boiled chicken. These are all great treat ideas for your pet.
  2. Chocolate – Chocolate is toxic to pets. Many times we see them in because they have gotten into a gift under the tree that contained chocolate. If you suspect that any wrapped gifts may be chocolate or any other sweets or food, put it up out of reach until Christmas morning to open. Ensure all chocolate is inaccessible to your pets.
  3. Bones – After the big meal, it’s not over just because the food is put away and the dishes are done. Bones in the garbage can be all too tempting for pets. Tinfoil or packaging, even plastic wrap can be irresistible to pets as it has taken on the smell and flavour of the meal and become a foreign body lodged that needs to be removed surgically. Bones can splinter when chewed causing harm to the mouth and gums, and even worse if ingested. Be sure to double bag and take the garbage out of the house and make it inaccessible to all pets, even outside.
  4. Strings & Things – It’s always cute to watch a cat play with string and tinsel, however, it’s not cute when that cat needs to be rushed into emergency surgery because they ingested the string or tinsel. Always supervise your cats play with things like this, and take it away when you are not able to watch closely. It is a common misconception that they will pass the string, and yes, it is a possibility. However, the chance of needing it removed surgically is high enough that you don’t want to take that chance. Strings get caught up in the digestive tract, causing the intestines to contract and close off completely, leaving cats in a life-threatening situation.
  5. Electrical Cords – For some reason, pets think these look like great chew toys. Keep electrical cords hidden and out of reach of pets. Electrical shock burns in the mouth and even death are easily avoidable by taking an extra step to tuck away cords.
  6. Flowers and festive plants – You can find yourself with an emergency vet visit if your pets get a hold of them. Amaryllis, poinsettias, mistletoe, balsam, pine cedar, and holly are among the common holiday plants that can be poisonous to your pets.
  7. Guest mishaps – This is the time of year we want all our family and friends around, meaning lots of traffic in and out. Doors can get left open and pets can escape. Be sure your pets are properly tagged with ID during the holidays. If they do escape, they can be easily returned home. Also be sure that all your guests know the rules for your pets, what they can and can’t have as treats, some pets have allergies that guests aren’t aware of. For pets that get nervous with new people or bigger crowds, it may be a good idea to put them in a chill-out room where they are comfortable and escape and food doesn’t even become an issue.

Written by: Lyndsay McShane, RVT

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