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Holiday Pet Health and Safety Tips

We’re pretty sure you want to remember your holiday as being full of good times, great food, and happy moments with family and friends – and not as that time you had to take your pet to the emergency room!

To keep your holiday season full of cheer (and free of emergencies), we’ve complied some tips to help your pets stay healthy and safe this holiday season.

Décor Dangers

What are the holidays without trees, candles, mistletoe, and plenty of gifts? Unfortunately, many of these things can be hazardous for pets. But with a little forethought, you can keep your home festive, and safe for your furry family member.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Candles are easily tipped over by exuberant or curious pets. Snuff them out when you aren’t in the room, or better yet consider using flameless.
  • Cats find tinsel irresistible. They love to play with it and often ingest it, necessitating emergency surgery. Trim the tree with something less tempting.
  • Secure your tree to the wall, as it can be easily knocked over when your cat tries to climb it, or your dog bumps into it. Nobody wants to decorate the tree twice or clean up broken ornaments.

One of the most common emergencies veterinarians see during the holiday season are pets that have ingested something they shouldn’t, and require emergency surgery to remove the foreign object. A few of the more common ones are:

  • Wrapping paper: Some pets love tearing into gifts too, but those pieces can accidentally end up eaten, so be diligent about putting scraps into trash bags.
  • Ribbon/string: These are especially dangerous, since strands can become what we call linear foreign bodies, which anchor to the tongue and can damage your pet’s GI tract.
  • Tree lights and ornaments: These are choking and ingestion hazards. Ornament hooks can cause serious problems. Glass ornaments can be “fun” to crunch on, but those sharp shards are no picnic to remove.
  • Small toys, dreidels, and other smaller decorations: These also pose a choking hazard or can easily lodge in your pet’s stomach or intestines, requiring surgical removal.

Easy on Treats

High-fat foods are everywhere during the holiday season, and it doesn’t take much to set off a painful – and life-threatening – bout of pancreatitis in your dog. If you can’t resist sharing “people food” with your pet, make it skinless, unseasoned turkey, or better yet, appropriately sized pieces of carrots, apples, or squash. Some other foods that are toxic or pose a hazard to pets are:

  • Xylitol: Many sweets (and many peanut butters) contain the artificial sweetener xylitol, which can be fatal to both dogs and cats in small doses.
  • Bones: Cooked and raw bones can easily splinter and cause a choking hazard, or perforate intestines, which can be fatal.
  • Chocolate: The caffeine and theobromine in chocolate make it toxic to pets – the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is.
  • Grapes, raisins, and currants: Even a single piece of these fruits can lead to life-threatening kidney failure in dogs.

While you’re keeping food out of reach of pets, remember to take the trash out, or at least secure it so your dog doesn’t have access to a can fully loaded with food scraps.

Beware of Toxins

Pets get into things – they are curious and inquisitive and some of those things can pose a danger. A few other things to keep an eye on this holiday season include:

  • Antifreeze: This lethal chemical has a sweet taste to pets, so even a small spill will attract cats and dogs. Clean up spills thoroughly and keep all household chemicals behind locked doors.
  • Human medication: Remind visitors to keep any medicine they may have brought with them out of reach of pets.
  • Holiday plants: Amaryllis, poinsettia, holly, and mistletoe are all toxic to dogs and cats. Keep them well out of reach or go faux.
  • Tree water: The water at the base of Christmas trees often contains toxins from in the fertilizer or preservatives to keep the tree fresh. Use a covered tree stand so thirsty pets can’t get access.

Additionally, it’s good to keep in mind that many pets (like many humans!) become stressed or overwhelmed with the excitement of visitors and the whirl of the holiday season. Make sure to provide a safe, comfortable, quiet place for your pet to stay and relax if they get overexcited or anxious. Even the friendliest dogs and cats often need some time away to recharge and relax.

If your pet does have an emergency during the holiday season, remember we are here 24/7/365 and no appointment is ever needed. We ask you call us at 386-252-0206 to alert us your arrival, and please complete admissions forms online. Due to increased caseload and limited staff, there may be a longer wait time than usual.

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