Keeping Your Pet Healthy During the Holidays

The cold weather is upon us and the holiday season is quickly approaching.  Amid this busy season of shopping, baking, decorating, and visiting family and friends, there are some things to keep in mind concerning your pets.  There are certain hazards, injuries, and poisonings seen in animals more commonly this time of year.  Simply being aware of potential problems and doing a little “pet proofing” around the house will go a long way toward heading off any problems.

 

Toxic Plants:

There are several plants that can be harmful or poisonous to pets.  Below are some of the more common ones encountered this time of year.

Poinsettia: Low toxicity, chewing or ingesting the leaves and stems can result in vomiting and/or diarrhea, and increased salivation.

Christmas greens: All parts of these plants are low toxicity, but can cause vomiting and diarrhea after ingestion.

Holly: The leaves and berries have moderate to severe toxicity.  Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and central nervous system (CNS) depression.

Mistletoe: All parts of this plant are very toxic, but especially the berries. Vomiting and diarrhea are common, but other symptoms include changes in heart rate, trouble breathing, seizures, and coma.  Death can occur in cases of severe intoxication.  (I would recommend using fake mistletoe.)  If your pet has ingested any of these plants please make sure to seek veterinary assistance.

 

The Holiday Kitchen:

There are many hazards in the holiday kitchen, and most pets keep a watchful eye during holiday baking and cooking, in hopes that a tasty morsel might drop on the floor.  Many foods can cause serious illness for our four legged friends.  Chocolate of all kinds, but especially semisweet and baking chocolate, is toxic to pets.  Symptoms of chocolate toxicity can range from vomiting and diarrhea, to high blood pressure, tremors, heart arrhythmias, seizures, and death.  Bones from turkey, chicken, ham, etc. can cause gastrointestinal (GI) upset, choking, or intestinal obstruction, and should not be given to pets.  Table scraps, or any food that is not your pet’s normal diet, can cause GI upset.  Be careful about treats and table scraps and caution any guests to not feed your pet any of these “special treats”.

 

Trees and Decorations:

“Decking the Halls” can provide some hazards as well.  Christmas trees and glass ornaments can prove to be dangerous, particularly to cats.   Since cats are notorious for trying to climb trees, make sure to stabilize it properly to avoid the tree falling over.   It may be a good idea to wire ornaments to the tree with floral wire to prevent pets from knocking ornaments of the tree.  Place breakable ornaments out of your pet’s reach to avoid cuts from broken glass. Any ornament, decoration, tinsel, yarn, or ribbon can be a choking hazard or cause an intestinal obstruction if ingested.  Electrical cords should be covered and tacked down because chewing on electrical cords can result in electrocution.

 

Safe Travel:

If you are traveling with your pet for the holidays, make sure to have proper identification on your pet, including a local phone number or your cell phone.  Microchipping your pet is always the best way to ensure its safe return.  If you are traveling a long distance, make sure to bring plenty fresh food and water for your pet.  Holiday traffic jams can keep you in the car much longer than expected and it is always a good idea to have emergency needs for your pet readily available.

 

Giving Pets As Gifts

Remember that there are thousands of animals in Shelters each year in the months following the holidays.  Many of these animals were impulsive purchases, and once the recipients realized the impact of training a puppy, or the daily routine of changing the litter box, they decided to turn in their animals.  If you do plan to give a pet to loved one for Christmas, don’t forget to stop by the local animal shelters and rescue groups.  There are hundreds of wonderful animals for adoption in need of loving homes. 

 

Helping Pets in Need

In the spirit of giving during the holiday season, keep your local shelter and rescue group in mind for a holiday donation.  Food, litter, towels and other items are always needed.

 

Best wishes to all for a happy and healthy holiday season.  Please don’t hesitate to contact my office with any questions.  The following websites offer accurate information on several pet health issues including the topics discussed above.

Animal Poison Control Center – www.aspca.org/apcc

General information – www.veterinarypartner.com