It’s time to “deck the halls” and enjoy time with your friends and family, including the furry members of your family. However, along with the excitement of the holiday season, this time of year also brings hazards for our pets. According to pets.webmd.com, each year there are more than 100,000 cases of pet poisoning, mostly from household substances. While these accidents can happen any time of year, the holidays pose a particular threat for poisonings and many more hazards. Protect your pet with these holiday pet safety tips.
Our Favorite Decorations Pose a Health Risk
Many of us enjoy the traditional holiday greenery. Whether it is the smell of a freshly cut Christmas tree or the anticipation of bringing in New Year’s under a bunch of mistletoe, the foliage we love can be harmful to our pets. While Christmas trees are not poisonous, we often use fertilizers in the tree water. Be sure your tree’s water bowl is covered and that the tree is secured to prevent water from spilling and being consumed by your pet. Even if you do not use fertilizer, water left sitting for weeks will breed bacteria that is harmful to your pet’s digestive system, resulting in nausea and diarrhea.
Two other favorites, holly and mistletoe, are harmful if ingested. Holly can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Mistletoe can contribute to gastrointestinal problems as well and cardiovascular complications. There are many common household plants that are dangerous too. While you may do your due diligence in your own home, be aware of the risks in homes you will be visiting if your pet is coming along. For example, many types of lilies can cause kidney failure in cats. A simple aloe vera plant is toxic to both dogs and cats. Ingesting it can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, anorexia and tremors. If you are unsure about a plant’s toxicity, Animal Poison Control has a comprehensive list of toxic and non-toxic plants for cats, dogs and horses.
Plants aren’t the only holiday decorations that are threatening to a pet. No doubt you know how much your kitty loves to play with anything shiny. Avoid tinsel. Even a small piece can accidentally be ingested, leading to an obstructed digestive tract that possibly requires surgery. The same is true of streamers that are popular for New Year’s celebrations. Be careful that candles, wiring and glass ornaments are kept safely out of reach. If your pet were to bust even a plastic ornament in its mouth, significant damage could be done to the mouth and digestive tract. Think about your pet before setting off fireworks, sparklers or poppers too. The fun festivities can be frightening for them.
Just as we take precautions to protect ourselves when we travel, we should do the same for our pets. Your pet should have its own safe place in a vehicle, not on your lap, hanging out the window or riding in the back of a truck. Put your pet in a crate that is sized appropriately, and be sure the crate is buckled in securely.
Before leaving for a trip, check to see if you have your pet’s collar and it includes all your current contact information. Go an extra step by having a microchip implanted in your pet. It doesn’t hurt any more than a routine vaccination and will ensure that your pet can always be identified. Registration is free through websites like found.org. If you are traveling by car, you will no doubt stop for potty breaks. Even if you have a dog that does not run from you, be sure it’s leashed. New surroundings can make dogs act out-of-character.
The Food is the Best Part…Not for Your Pet
The abundance of delicious food is the part of the holiday most of us look forward to the most. The rich food we love, though, is not good for our furry friends. Remind guests not to feed your animals no matter how much they beg. Sweets, especially chocolate, are bad for your pets. Chocolate can cause internal bleeding and seizures. Fatty meats, spicy foods and even bones can be detrimental to their digestive system or pose a choking hazard. For example, the high fat content in turkey skin can lead to pancreatitis in dogs. Even the yeast in most breads and rolls can cause uncomfortable gas for dogs. Watch unattended plates and garbage cans too. Our dogs and cats will hunt for that yummy morsel like finding buried treasure.
Our favorite beverages can also cause a problem for our pets. Encourage guests to not leave alcoholic beverages unattended either. Ingesting alcohol can do more than make your pet sleepy. Coma can result and possibly respiratory failure.
Give Them Some Space
Holiday gatherings are usually hectic, bustling places. This can be traumatic for a pet that is used to a quiet environment. Even when they are away from home, ensure they have a quiet place to go. Just providing their own corner in your room, complete with comfy blankets and water, will help them cope with the change in scenery. Additionally, try to keep them on their routine as much as possible. Feeding times, bathroom breaks and exercise schedules will give them a sense of normality and help them adjust.
Enjoy this holiday season! With a little precaution and a lot of love and patience, your furry friend will enjoy this of year as well.
Our practice is unique in that we provide medical care to multiple species in the greater Tucson area. Three of our veterinarians specialize in the care of dogs and cats and the other three veterinarians specialize in the care of horses and livestock.