With the holiday season upon us, things can get quite hectic. Houseguests, seasonal foods, and holiday decor all add opportunities for your pet to get into mischief that could land her in the hospital. In the hustle and bustle of this joyous time, don’t forget to take time out to safeguard your pet against these common holiday pitfalls.
The rich foods and sweet desserts characteristic of holiday dinners are a tantalizing temptation for pets. Many of the ingredients used to concoct these delicious seasonal dishes can be toxic to pets, including:
- Chocolate — Holiday treats come covered, filled, and iced with all varieties of chocolate. The darker the chocolate, the higher the level of toxic ingredients. The theobromine and caffeine in chocolate can cause vomiting, diarrhea, agitation, tremors, seizures, and life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias.
- Grapes and raisins — Grapes and raisins set out to snack on or used in baked goods can cause deadly kidney failure in dogs, cats, and ferrets. The toxic dose is inconsistent between animals, so ingestion of even one or two can be concerning.
- Xylitol — An artificial sweetener used in increasingly more food items, xylitol can be found in cookies, candy, gum, and even peanut butter. Xylitol causes a rapid drop in blood glucose, causing severe hypoglycemia and liver failure.
- Fatty foods — The fatty trimmings from your holiday turkey or ham can wreak havoc on your pet’s digestive system and lead to a dangerous bout of pancreatitis. Characterized by vomiting, severe abdominal pain, and dehydration, pancreatitis often requires hospitalization for recovery.
- Bones — Meat bones can cause a multitude of problems and should never be fed to pets. When chewed into pieces, bones can lodge in the stomach or intestines, causing life-threatening blockages. Poultry bones pose an additional risk, as they can splinter into sharp pieces that can get stuck or puncture through the stomach or intestines.
Holiday centerpieces, arrangements, and garlands used to deck the halls often contain plants and flowers that can be poisonous to pets. Curious pets—cats in particular—are drawn to new things in their environment, and often sample this greenery. Holiday plants that can be a hazard to pets include:
Poinsettias can cause mild irritation to the mouth and digestive tract, but they are not actually toxic.
Christmas tree catastrophes
To your pet, the Christmas tree may seem like a tempting jungle gym. If your feline friend tries to climb the tree or your rough-housing pooch jumps into it, an unsecured tree can easily topple over. With pets in the house, the tree should be anchored to avoid this mishap.
Tree water may contain fertilizers, pesticides, and bacteria that can make animals ill. Both cats and dogs seem drawn to this new water source and readily lap it up. To deter thirsty pets, keep the tree stand covered. You can also sprinkle ground pepper around the tree base or hide a citrus-scented deodorizer in the center of the tree to keep them away.
If pets chew on electric cords for tree lights and other decorations, severe electrical burns can result. Keep cords stashed out of site to avoid temptation.
One of the most dangerous tree adornments your pet can get into is tinsel. If eaten, the string-like pieces can cause the intestines to bunch up around them and can even wear a hole in the intestines as they contract. If you have pets, skip the tinsel.
When you open your doors to holiday guests, many of the safeguards you have in place may go out the window. Be clear with your guests about rules that pertain to your pet. Let them know not to feed any table food. Ask them to leave potty breaks to you and to be alert when doors are open so your pet does not slip out. Most importantly, have them secure any medications they may bring into your house; toxicities from human medications are some of the most common emergencies seen in veterinary clinics. Medications left in suitcases or placed on nightstands can easily be eaten by pets, and you may not even know it happened until it’s too late.
While holiday gatherings can get quite rowdy, your pet may not be a party animal. Loud music, laughing, and chatter may make your pet anxious. New Year’s Eve festivities, in particular, may be punctuated by loud noises from fireworks and noisemakers. If your pet becomes stressed by the holiday hubbub, provide a quiet place for her to chill out. A quiet room away from the party with a cozy bed, toys, and special treats can help take her mind off the clamor.
The holiday season should be a wonderful time of year; don’t let a pet emergency ruin the fun. A few small preparations will ensure you can relax and enjoy the season without stress.