Holiday time presents some situations which can be hazardous to your pet’s health. A little planning and taking extra precautions will keep the holidays a happy time for everyone.
Holiday food favorites can be dangerous for dogs watch out for “counter surfing” with food left on counters and serving areas. Fats, gravies and poultry skin can lead to gastrointestinal upset or worse pancreatitis. This inflammatory condition of the pancreas often requires hospitalized care and can be fatal. Keep trash where your pet cannot get to it. Food scraps and packaging can be delectable for your pet.
Alcoholic drinks especially eggnog is tempting along with rum cake. And unbaked bread dough undergoes fermentation in the stomach to produce ethanol and stomach distension.
Chocolate poisoning is a common problem with early symptoms being anxiety, agitation or vomiting. The darker the chocolate the more dangerous it is. Don’t keep wrapped boxes of chocolate under the tree – they will be opened by your dog.
If you have to share food, give canned pumpkin or raw or cooked sweet potato, carrots or green beans without added oils. Grapes, raisins and currants are toxic for some dogs. Be careful with peanut butter as it is high in fat and some peanut butters now have a natural sweetener called Xylitol added. Xylitol causes a dog’s blood sugar to become low and possibly liver failure. Only 2 ounces of Xylitol containing peanut spread can be toxic for a 25 pound dog. Xylitol is also used in sugar-free gum, baked goods and candies often labeled as “sweetened naturally” or “naturally sweetened.”
It doesn’t take much for a climbing cat or excited dog to knock the Christmas tree over, so make sure it is secured. A tight fitting tree skirt can prevent your pet from drinking the tree’s water. Foil around the base can discourage cats. Double-sided cellophane tape or citronella spray at the tree base will discourage cats from climbing. Avoid ornaments made from food such as salt/dough ornaments and popcorn strings. Watch for and remove any broken ornaments. Be careful with holiday lights as they are usually not insulated well and so are easily chewed through. Burn marks at the lips or tongue or respiratory distress are signs of electrocution. Tinsel and curling ribbon should be avoided completely especially with cats.
Poinsettia is only mildly toxic; holly, mistletoe, and Amaryllis more so with more severe stomach upset. Lilies are particularly worrisome in cats with eating only one or two leaves or flower petals causing kidney failure.
Potpourri liquid or scented oils simmered in a pot are particularly attractive to cats and are poisonous due to the essential oils and cationic detergents they contain.
While your medications are safely stored away, house guests may leave theirs in plastic bags in open suitcases. More common now is marijuana in plastic bags. If there is marijuana in the house, your dog will find it. No drug sniffing training needed here.
Lastly, one that you may be unfamiliar with is snow globes. They can contain ethylene glycol (antifreeze). If you drop and break one, the liquid could be quickly licked up because it tastes sweet. Ethylene glycol ingestion can cause kidney failure. Proceed immediately to your veterinarian if this occurs.
For some cats and dogs, the bustle of the holiday season with visitors and increased household activity can be stressful. Providing a comfortable, quiet place to retreat to can help and also prevent unnoticed escapes out the door. If your pet is particularly upset by houseguests, then your veterinarian can help with possible solutions.
If you suspect that your pet has been exposed to a “holiday hazard”, call your local veterinarian immediately or call Pet Poison Helpline at 855-213-6680 or ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435 (fee for both). Early treatment can prevent a serious or fatal condition.