We all know that Santa loves animals—after all, he takes extremely good care of his reindeer—and he loves to give gifts. And, Santa knows that many traditions associated with the holidays, such as special food and once-a-year decorations, may be gifts that pets want, but should not receive, because they can have dire consequences. So, take advice from the Santa who knows, and prevent your pet from getting these “gifts.”
#1: Anxiety in pets
Part and parcel of every holiday celebration, whether Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, or New Year, is all the noise made when family and friends get together, or from celebratory fireworks. But extreme noise can be scary for pets. Alleviate their anxiety by creating a safe haven in a quiet room away from the noise. Add a comfortable bed, their favorite blanket and toy, soft, calming music, and a special treat, such as a frozen Kong stuffed with their favorite canned food, to help them relax. Tell all family and guests that when your pet is in their room, they must be left alone.
Anxious pets may also try to escape, and will likely have plenty of opportunities to slip through often-opening and closing doors. Animal shelters are filled with lost pets who run away during the holidays, which is another reason to keep them in their own special space.
#2: Stomach upset and obstruction in pets
Holiday meals abound with rich, high-fat, high-salt foods that your pet may covet—and try to steal—but they really do not want the gastrointestinal upset or obstruction that goes along with several, varied, holiday items:
- Chocolate — Never feed your pet any chocolate. Dark and baking chocolate contain the highest toxin concentration, but enough milk chocolate can also make pets sick.
- Chicken bones — Dogs and bones may go together, but chicken bones may splinter or crumble and cause digestive upset, or an intestinal blockage that may require emergency surgical removal.
- Thanksgiving decor — Pumpkins and other edible items used as Thanksgiving decorations can become moldy and cause gastrointestinal upset in pets. Also, corn cobs, if eaten whole, can become obstructed and require surgical removal.
- Christmas trees — Pets are not likely to admire your beautiful tree—rather, they see an enticing playground.
- Tree ornaments are the perfect thing to bat with a wagging tail, causing them to fall and break, and potentially cut pet paws, or cause digestive upset if eaten.
- The tree stand is likely filled with more than water. Don’t let your pet drink the water, which will be contaminated with fertilizers, chemicals, and dangerous bacteria.
- You should avoid using tinsel, which is dangerous for cats, on your tree. Tinsel and other string-like decorations are irresistible to cats, and can become caught in their intestines, causing severe pain and usually requiring emergency surgery.
- Holiday plants — Lilies, mistletoe, pine, and holly are dangerous for pets, resulting in digestive upset in pets who eat their leaves, flowers, or berries. Poinsettias can also cause upset stomachs, but usually less severe.
#3: Kidney or liver failure in pets
Who would think something small and innocent could cause your pet severe problems? But, two foods can cause kidney or liver failure in dogs.
- Grapes — Eating only a few grapes or raisins can cause acute kidney failure in dogs. Toxicity is less common in cats, but preventing your dog or cat from eating any at all is safest.
- Xylitol — A sugar substitute found in many foods, such as candy, gum, peanut butter, and many products for diabetics, xylitol can cause a dangerous blood sugar drop, or liver failure, in pets.
#4: Pancreatitis in pets
Pancreatitis is a condition where the pancreas, a gland located behind the stomach that is responsible for releasing digestive enzymes, becomes inflamed. If the inflammation is severe, the enzymes back up into the pancreas, which they will begin to digest. Rich holiday foods, such as turkey scraps or ham trimmings, can cause your pet’s pancreas to release a surge of enzymes and trigger inflammation, with vomiting, severe abdominal pain, and dehydration that can be life-threatening.
#5: Alcohol poisoning in pets
Alcohol in any form is severely toxic for pets, so take care to ensure they cannot reach:
- Cocktails and such — Any alcoholic beverage that your pet drinks can cause vomiting, diarrhea, depression, incoordination, coma, or death.
- Raw yeast dough — If your pet grabs and eats yeast dough left to rise on a kitchen counter they can reach, the dough will continue to expand in their warm stomach, and cause a gastric obstruction. The yeast can also metabolize and produce alcohol, which can be absorbed, causing alcohol toxicity.
#6: Injury in pets
Pets, like children, despite being excited about all the goings-on, should not be allowed to run around the Christmas tree, or rough-house, because these items present possible problems:
- Electric cords — Many holiday items require electric cords, and you must ensure they are tucked away so pets cannot chew them and be burned, or worse.
- Candles — Use only battery-operated rather than real, lighted candles, which can be knocked over and burn pets, or cause a house fire.
- Trees — Ensure Christmas trees are stable and will not fall over and cause injury if your dog and their wagging tail get too close, or your cat decides to climb to the top and replace the angel tree-topper.
Most of us do not think about all these holiday traumas for our pets, but, unfortunately, they do happen. We hope you enjoy problem-free holidays with your pets, but, if not, you should immediately seek veterinary advice. Our veterinarians can help you determine the seriousness of the situation, and whether your pet needs emergency care. Contact us, so we can help your pet, and you can get back to the celebrations.