The holidays are a special time of year, but they can also be hectic. With so much on your holiday to-do list, you can easily get distracted and caught up in the craziness, which can spell trouble for a curious pet. Holiday hazards abound this time of year, and nobody wants to spend the holidays at the emergency veterinarian. Check out our Village Veterinary Hospital team’s list of common holiday pet hazards to ensure your pet stays safe and comfortable.
Holiday Pet Hazard #1: Pancreatitis
Pets who eat large amounts of rich, fatty foods are at increased risk for pancreatitis, a painful condition that can be life-threatening. A pet can develop pancreatitis year-round, but since the illness often results from a high-fat meal, cases rise significantly over the holidays, because well-meaning owners share table scraps and leftovers with their pets. High-fat, difficult to digest food scraps like turkey skin or fat trimmings are common culprits and can cause severe vomiting, abdominal pain, dehydration, and—in some cases—hospitalization. Protect your pet from pancreatitis with these tips:
- Keep pets in another room while you’re cooking and serving a meal.
- Avoid sharing your holiday meal with your pet.
- Ask guests to refrain from feeding your pets.
- Clean up leftovers immediately, and dispose of scraps in a secure trash can.
Holiday Pet Hazard #2: Toxin ingestion
Many holiday foods, plants, and decorations contain toxic ingredients that can seriously harm your pet if ingested. Keep the following items out of pets’ reach:
- Toxic plants — Many plants used in holiday arrangements, such as mistletoe, holly, and lilies, are toxic to pets. Plants may also be treated with fertilizers or pesticides that can be toxic. Other plant varieties that can cause toxicity include:
- Christmas cactus
- Chocolate — Chocolate contains toxins that can cause gastrointestinal, cardiac, and neurological problems. Dark chocolate and baking chocolate contain the highest toxin concentrations, although milk chocolate can also cause toxicity if large amounts are eaten.
- Medications — Human prescription and over-the-counter medications are the most common cause of pet toxicities and can be deadly for pets. Keep all medications stored securely in a medicine cabinet, and ask guests to keep their bags and jackets out of pets’ reach in case they contain something toxic that your pet could find.
- Toxic foods — Many human food items, such as grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, raw yeast dough, and xylitol, which is found in sugar-free candy and gum, are toxic to pets.
- Tree water — The water in your tree stand—which your pet can easily confuse with a water bowl—may contain chemicals and bacteria that can make them sick. Cover your tree stand to keep your pet from drinking.
Holiday Pet Hazard #3: Foreign Body Ingestion
Holiday decorations pique the interest of many pets, and a pet whose curiosity leads them to a non-food item that they ingest can suffer serious consequences. Foreign body ingestion may cause gastrointestinal distress, which can lead to a life-threatening stomach or intestinal obstruction. Take precautions with the following holiday decorations to reduce your pet’s risk:
- Ornaments — Don’t place ornaments—especially glass ornaments—on low branches where your pet can bat them off and potentially ingest them, and avoid hanging edible ornaments that may tempt your pet.
- Tinsel — Many cats find tinsel’s silvery strands irresistible, but the tinsel pieces can become caught in their intestines, causing severe pain, and usually requiring emergency surgery. Avoid decorating your tree with tinsel to keep your pet safe.
- Electric cords — Pets who mistake an electrical cord for a chew toy and puncture the cord with their teeth can be electrocuted or badly burned. Keep electrical cords tucked safely out of your pet’s reach.
- Wrapping paper and packaging — While your family is busy opening presents, your pet may be looking for entertainment, and decide to play with the crinkly wrapping paper and packaging strewn about under the tree. To keep your pet from ingesting these items, clean up wrapping paper and packaging immediately after opening a gift.
Holiday Pet Hazard #4: Lost pets
Hosting a holiday party at your home means your front door opens and shuts often as you greet and send off your guests. An unsupervised, nervous pet may bolt through your open door as guests file in with food and gifts. Keep your pet in another room when the door is open, especially as guests are coming or going. In addition, ensure they have adequate identification, in case they slip past you and get lost. A collar and identification tag can help your pet return home, but a collar can slip off, making permanent identification with a microchip invaluable. If your pet has a microchip, check that your information is up to date in the national database. If they do not, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to microchip them.
We hope you and your pet enjoy a safe and healthy holiday season. But, in case of a pet emergency, contact our team at Village Veterinary Hospital or Animal Poison Control to get expert advice on the care they need.