DON’T PUT YOUR PETS IN PERIL, HOLIDAY HAZARDS YOU SHOULD KNOW!
Updated: Jan 30
That wonderful Christmas magic has returned:
The Christmas holiday is a time of celebration, peace, and happiness. It can also be a very busy time of year, as you rush around preparing your home for all your friends, family, and of course, your beloved pets. The holiday season is an exciting and wonderful time of year for your pets. With all the activities of the season our beloved pets may be exposed to hazards less commonly found other times of the year. As your home fills with holiday joy this season, your pets may be intrigued by all the new sites, smells and tastes that surround them. The Holiday season can be stressful to your pet. Changes in decoration, presence of guests or change in routine can bring about anxiety. Try to take a few moments out of your day strictly spent giving attention, grooming and playing games, to your dog or cat so that they do not feel neglected during your busy holiday preparations.
The following are some of the most common health concerns that come up for your pet during the holidays. If you have a specific question regarding any pet health concern, please contact your veterinarian.
#1- Tinsel, Ribbon and other Shiny Things
Tinsel used as a tree decoration and fancy ribbons used on presents are pleasing not only to our eyes, but to the eyes of our four-legged companions especially our cats. There is something about those shiny strands of Christmas tree decor, which drives our cats wild. Although the sight of your cat pawing at the tree may be adorably cute, the ingestion of tinsel can be deadly. Eating tinsel or other string-like items such as ribbon (often called linear foreign bodies) can cause serious damage to the intestine. Pets with linear foreign bodies quickly become ill. If not caught in time, infection of the belly cavity develops and the prognosis for recovery becomes poor.
Signs your pet has eaten a holiday decoration can range from vomiting, diarrhea, depression, belly pain and sometimes fever, depending upon whether or not the foreign matter can be passed, or if it gets stuck along the way. Foreign matter stuck in the intestine may not always show up on "x-ray" but sometimes the foreign matter will trap air in the intestine, which can help your veterinarian make a diagnosis. Surgery will be required to remove any foreign matter that does not pass out on its own. To avoid these problems during the holiday season, avoid tinsel unless you can keep the pet out of the room with the tree. Also keep those nicely decorated Christmas gifts out of your pet's reach.
#2- Christmas Trees
To help your pet avoid injuries, ensure that your Christmas tree is securely set in place. A playful or curious pet may run into, snag, bump or even climb the tree, knocking it over. If your pets have access to the tree room, suspending support wires to your ceiling and walls, keeping the tree in a corner of the room or even child gates can be used across doorways to keep your pet away from the Christmas tree and decorations at times they cannot be watched, are all helpful preventive steps.
If using a real Christmas tree, be sure to avoid the use of chemicals in the water. Pets may drink this water and become ill. Even though they have their own source of water, there is something intriguing about a new source of water to our furry little friends, whether it's the toilet bowl or the Christmas tree stand. If you add chemicals to the water, be sure to read the label completely, to make sure it is safe for your pets.
Potpourri will help make your house smell wonderfully festive, but may be another interesting new source of water for your pets to investigate or worse, drink. Make sure that potpourri pots are covered or otherwise not accessible to your pets.
Please note, that using glass ornaments to decorate your Christmas tree can also be very dangerous, if ornaments fall from or get knocked off the tree and break. Shards of sharp, fine glass may become imbedded into the pads, or in the skin between the toes, or perhaps even be chewed on, buy our four-legged family members! Keep them off the ends of branches and away from high traffic areas, or avoiding them altogether would be the best.
#3- Holiday Lights
Decorative lights are another attraction for pets. It is likely at some time in the past or maybe recently, you have caught your furry little friend chewing on a cord at some point, they love to chew. This is why it is so important that both indoor and outdoor lights be carefully examined yearly to ensure safety for your home, family and pets. Fire or Electrical shock may occur from defective cords as well as from pets chewing on cords. Check cords for any signs of bite marks, loose or frayed wires, proximity to the tree's water supply or evidence of short circuits. Use grounded "3-prong" extension cords and strictly follow manufacturer's guidelines for light usage.
Electrical shock can cause burns, difficulty breathing, abnormal heart rhythm, loss of consciousness, and death. Call a veterinarian immediately if your pet has been injured by electrical shock. Treatment will be most effective if begun as quickly as possible after the shock.
#4- Festive Foods
It is very tempting to give the dog the remains of the Christmas turkey, just remember bones can and do kill. When bones are cooked, they become very brittle and when the dog chews them, they splinter into needle sharp pieces. These pieces can become stuck in the stomach or intestines and can perforate the bowel, which is life threatening. Uncooked bones can have the same effect as cooked bones so it is best to avoid bones all together.
Also concerning around this holiday season, is well-intentioned family and friends who may share holiday foods with your pets causing your pet to develop a stomach upset or worse, pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) which can be caused by eating fatty foods. To control excessive food intake by your pets and meet your guests' desires to feed the pets, hand out some treats your pets would normally receive and let your guests give them to your pets. If you want to get festive, mix some of your pet's regular food with water to make a "dough" and roll out and cut into festive shapes, then bake until crunchy.
Extra attention from visiting relatives and friends may be relished by some pets while others seek solitude in their favorite hiding spot. Make sure pets are given some "personal space" if they want to get away from the commotion.
Some pets may respond to all the festive activity with a change in behavior including bad behaviors, like eliminating in the house. Try to spend a little extra "quality time" with your pet to assure them they have not been forgotten on this beautiful Christmas Holiday.
#5- Holiday Chocolates
What would the holidays be without boxes of chocolate and warm cocoa in front of the fire? However, chocolate can be toxic or even fatal to dogs and cats, especially dogs. In fact, dogs can develop a "chocolate-seeking behaviour", seeking this delicious treat wherever it can be found. Chocolates contain stimulants including theobromine and caffeine. These are present at especially high concentrations in unsweetened bakers’ chocolate. Chocolate poisoning occurs most frequently in dogs but other species are also susceptible. Theobromine is the toxic compound found in chocolate. Signs which may appear between 1 to 4 hours after eating the chocolate may include: Vomiting, Increased thirst, Diarrhea, Weakness, Difficulty keeping balance, Hyperexcitability, Muscle spasms, seizures, coma and Death from abnormal heart rhythm.
The toxicity of chocolate depends on the amount and type of chocolate ingested. If you suspect your pet may have ingested chocolate. Have the product label information available when you call your veterinarian.
#6- Poinsettias & Mistletoe
Ornamental plants such as poinsettias, holly, and mistletoe, found around the house during the holiday season, may be toxic to pets if ingested and should be kept out of your pets' reach.
Poinsettias fill homes with color during the holidays. Although, Poinsettias have received some bad publicity in the past, the simple fact is, poinsettias are not very toxic to pets. They do contain a milky sap that can irritate the mouth or cause a mild to moderate digestive upset but if signs develop, they are usually mild.
Where as, American Mistletoe produces quite severe irritation of the digestive tract, as well as whole body symptoms including low heart rate and temperature, difficulty breathing, unsteadiness, excess thirst, and sometimes seizures, coma, and even death can take place within hours of ingestion.
The ingestion of holly is most commonly associated with digestive upset and nervous system depression. There are many species of Holly (genus Ilex) Berries, and their leaves can be a problem although signs of poisonings are generally mild, and include vomiting, belly pain, and diarrhea.
As with any poisoning, you should call your veterinarian or an emergency veterinary hospital immediately. In general, the treatment of poisoning is most effective if begun as soon as possible, after consuming the poison, before large amounts have had time to be absorbed into the blood.
One Last Note:
Pets as Gifts?
A cute, cuddly puppy or kitten may seem to be the perfect gift but unfortunately it only seems that way. The truth is that unfortunately, after the holiday season the population of animal shelters explode with these "surprise gifts".
Owning a pet is a long-term commitment of time, money and love that not every one can make. So please consider this, before surprising a loved one with a pet they might not be ready for this Holiday Season.
Wishing You, Your Family and Your Pets a Safe and Merry Christmas!
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