Thank You to Dr. Amy Estrada for this article…
Holiday Pet Safety Tips
The next few months abound with holiday celebrations, but nothing can spoil good cheer like an emergency trip to the veterinary clinic. The following tips will help you to keep the holidays joyous for you and your pet.
Plan in Advance
Make sure you know how to get to the nearest 24/7 emergency veterinary clinic before there’s an emergency. Ask your veterinarian who they recommend and be aware of the directions prior to needing them. It is a good idea to have ready access to the following phone numbers in the event of an emergency
- Your veterinarian’s clinic phone number
- 24/7 emergency veterinary clinic
- ASPCA Poison Control Hotline: 1-888-426-4435 (A fee may apply) or Pet poison helpline 1-855-746-7661
People food is not meant for pets. If you want to share holiday treats with your pets, make or buy treats formulated just for them. Some of the foods that are particularly dangerous for pets include:
- Chocolate is toxic to dogs and cats. The darker the chocolate, the more toxin that it contains. Chocolate can cause increased heart rate, abnormal heart rhythms and neurologic side effects including tremors and seizures.
- Other sweets and baked goods should also be off limits. Many of these items are too rich for pets and can cause severe gastrointestinal upset. Xylitol, an artificial sweetener often found in baked goods, candy and chewing gum can cause low blood sugar and liver failure.
- Turkey and turkey skin and other fatty foods can lead to gastrointestinal upset or a severe condition called pancreatitis that causes vomiting, lack of appetite and abdominal pain.
- Table scraps – including gravy and meat fat –can also be dangerous to pets. Food containing onions, garlic, raisins and grapes can be toxic to your pet. Foods that are high in fat and sugar can be hard for animals to digest and can cause pancreatitis.
- Yeast dough can cause problems for pets, including painful gas, drunken behavior and potentially dangerous bloating.
- Bones can become lodged in the stomach or intestines and result in gastrointestinal obstruction and the need for surgery.
- Cocktails should not be left alone where pets may ingest them. This can result in weakness, stumbling or even coma.
Quick action can save lives. If you believe your pet has been poisoned or eaten something it shouldn’t have, call your veterinarian or local veterinary emergency clinic for advice. Signs of pet distress include: sudden changes in behavior, depression, pain, vomiting, or diarrhea.
Holiday decorations make our homes more festive, but can lead to unintended injury to our pets.
- Christmas trees should be securely anchored to avoid tipping over if your pet climbs on the tree or pulls on ornaments or lights.
- Water additives for Christmas trees can be toxic to pets. Do not add aspirin, sugar, or any preservatives the water if you have pets.
- Ornaments can be dangerous as well. Ingestions of ornaments can cause gastrointestinal obstructions. Broken ornaments can cause injury. Ornaments, made from salt-dough or other food-based materials can cause toxicity as well.
- Tinsel and other holiday decorations can be ingested and result in gastrointestinal obstruction which may require surgery.
- Electric lights can cause electrocution or burns if your pet chews them
- Batteries can cause burns to the mouth and esophagus.
- Holly, Mistletoe and other festive plants can often be toxic. Amaryllis, poinsettias, mistletoe, balsam, pine, cedar, and holly are among the common holiday plants that are considered poisonous to pets. The ASPCA offers lists of plants that are toxic to dogs and cats.
- Candles can be knocked over by pets causing burns or fires.
- Potpourris contain essential oils and cationic detergents that can severely damage your pet’s mouth, eyes and skin. Solid potpourris can be toxic if eaten.
Hosting Parties and Visitors
Holiday gatherings and visitors can be upsetting to pets due to strangers and excessive noise and activity. Even very social pets may become nervous in the chaos of a holiday party. Use the following tips to decrease stress and anxiety on your pets
- Make sure that your pet has quiet, safe area of retreat. This may include a room or crate aware from the noise and commotion of the party. This area should be off limits to guests. If your pet is particularly nervous or easily stressed by strangers, it may be best to isolate them into another room or area of the house. Pets with severe anxiety may require medications from their veterinarian to help with this stressful event.
- Guests with pets? Should be avoided unless the pets have been accustomed to each other. With all the hubbub of a gathering, pets may act aggressive or cause injury to unfamiliar pet guests.
- Watch the exits. Make sure you watch pets closely, when people are opening and closing doors to the house. Without appropriate supervision, your pet may escape or become injured in a closing door.
- Make sure your pet has proper identification with your current contact information. A microchip with up to date registration is particularly useful. This simple step may help reunite an escaped pet quickly and easily.
- Clear the food and trash from the party as soon as you are done with it. Pets are particularly crafty at sneaking an unattended snack. As discussed above, some foods are toxic while others may cause severe medical problems for your pet. Be sure to through trash away in a sealed can away from access by your pet. Sparkly ribbons and other decorative items that could be tempting for your pet to play with or consume.
When You Leave the House
- Unplug decorations while you’re not around to avoid burns or fires from chewed electrical cords.
- Take out the trash to avoid ingestion of harmful substances and foods.
Take the following precautions to be sure your pets are safe during travel
- Interstate and international travel regulations require any pet you bring with you to have a health certificate from your veterinarian – even if you are traveling by car. Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian in advance to get the needed certificate within the timeframes required by the states you are traveling through and to.
- Pets in vehicles should never be left along in the car regardless of the weather. Pets hould be properly restrained using a harness or a carrier, placed in a location clear of airbags. Never transport your pet in the bed of a truck.
- If you’re traveling by air and considering bringing your pet with you, talk with your veterinarian first. Air travel can put some pets at risk. Your veterinarian is the best person to advise you regarding your own pet’s ability to travel.
- Pack for your pet as well as yourself. Be sure to bring your pet’s food to avoid gi upset and all their medications. It is a good idea to bring copies of their medical records and information to identify your pet in the event that they become lost.
- Boarding your dog while you travel? Talk with your veterinarian to find out how best to protect your pet from contagious diseases, and to make sure your pet is up-to-date on vaccines.