The holiday season is often filled with good things: family reunions, gifts, delicious foods and festive decorations. Your pet can be part of the fun, but you may need to do a few things to keep it safe, because an unplanned visit to the vet is nothing celebratory.
Kim Johnson, DVM, an emergency veterinarian in Ventura, Calif., recalls a time when a patient brought her cocker spaniel over on vacation.
“This lady had just returned from Europe and had several ounces of fine French chocolate as a gift,” says Johnson. “She was only gone for a few hours and put the chocolate out of reach (she thought) only to come back and find candy wrappers everywhere!”
Johnson and her team were able to bring the puppy’s tremors and rapid heartbeat under control after treatment and overnight. But they were lucky, says Johnson. “He had eaten about 3 pounds of chocolate. … Fortunately, he was fine.
So how do you keep your fur kids safe and happy all season long?
Decoration not to do
It’s so much fun decorating for the holidays – until your pet falls into something that can hurt them. Holiday decorations like twinkle garlands and tree ornaments can look like toys for some pets. Garlands can cause stomach problems and dehydration. Pets can get sick enough to require surgery in some cases. The same goes for those pretty shiny ornaments: broken pieces could cut your pet or damage their innards if eaten.
Also beware of some holiday plants. Mistletoe – great for kissing, not great for pets. If consumed, it can lead to stomach or heart problems. Holly – great for hall patios, but it can cause diarrhea and vomiting in your furry friends. Lilies (more common around Easter) can cause kidney failure in your furry friends. To be on the safe side, opt for faux plants, plastic or silk, or even pet-safe bouquets.
Put the potpourri out of reach. The liquid type is toxic to pets and can be a problem for sensitive pet skin, eyes and mouth. And the crumbly type is not safe to eat either. Strong smells like pine and potpourri can also cause problems for pets with asthma.
Lights, from scented candles to Christmas or Hanukkah decorations, attract pets but can be harmful. A candle can be knocked over and cause a fire or burns.
And if your pet is chewing on Christmas lights, the electric shock can also be very serious. “Don’t let your pets get a shock,” Johnson says. “They get fluid in their lungs from [electric] shocks. There is no easy treatment for this, so it is very dangerous. She recommends unplugging Christmas lights when you can’t watch your pet.
When good snacks go bad
We all love snacking on vacation, including your kids. But some snacks that humans love can be toxic to pets. These include:
- Raisins, raisins and currants (Think fruitcake!)
- turkey skin
- Bread dough
- Meats with bones
- Foods with added fat (oil, butter, etc.)
- Fatty meats like beef, pork, lamb or duck
These foods can cause stomach upset, gas, pancreatitis, or worse, depending on the amount. So keep them out of reach and, of course, don’t give them to your pet.
Xylitol: Be careful if you or your loved ones are on a low-carb or Keto diet because xylitol, a popular sugar alternative, is toxic to pets. This can cause your pet’s blood sugar to drop and even lead to liver failure. Keep purses and backpacks away, as they tend to contain packets of sugar-free gum or mints containing xylitol.
sure stuff“Most carbs like rice or pasta are fine for pets,” says Johnson. “Just make sure they’re not cooked with butter, oil or seasonings. Plain vegetables like carrots or green beans are also fine, but avoid leafy greens which can cause gas.
Some pets, like people, love a good party. Others prefer to stick to their calmer routine. In any case, the risks are not lacking. Guests who want to interact with your pets and make them happy may not know the do’s and don’ts. Be open with your guests. Talk to them about house rules and pet preferences, and even pet injuries if they have any.
If you are particularly concerned about pet accidents, misbehavior, or other issues, consider moving your pet to a separate area. Remember that an animal alone in another room doing nothing can become anxious and destructive. So be sure to leave them a chew toy or activity treat like a Kong toy with peanut butter inside.
If that’s not enough, consider handing them over to a pet sitter or boarding house. Wherever you put them, make sure they get their exercise and bathroom time as well as their regular food and water.
- Some airlines require a written health certificate to board your pet on the plane. This can take some planning, so it’s best to talk to your vet well in advance.
- Medications: Some pets also need calming medications for travel. Talk to your veterinarian about the right medications and the right dose.
- Secure your pet safely in the car or plane. Talk to your veterinarian about the best course of action.
- Make sure your pet is up to date on all shots and reviews.
- Bring your pet’s health records and vaccinations, as well as any necessary prescriptions.
During the holidays, the weather can be cold and freezing. But outdoor winter activities can still be a lot of fun for you and your pet, provided you take some precautions. Here are some ideas:
- Protect the legs. Snow boots are an option, but can be difficult to put on your pup. Same thing for cats, where a puss in boots is not a problem in a movie. Give your pets time to get used to any pet clothing. Or use a balm to protect their paws from extreme cold.
- Melt the ice. Keeping your pet’s paws safe also means using pet-safe ice melt. All pet owners know that animals lick their paws. Make sure they don’t eat anything toxic that could hurt their stomach or worse. Morton, a company known for table salt, offers a pet-safe de-icer for around $20 at most pet stores. Also check out other brands.
- Keep them warm. Our pets are cold, especially the short haired ones breeds like chihuahuas. Go ahead and dress them up in a sweater if you see them shivering a lot. Keep rides short if you can, and dry them off with a warm towel if they’ve been in snow or ice.
Holidays are stressful enough. Don’t add an emergency vet visit – which can cost $2,000 or more. Pets are unpredictable, even with the best-laid plans. A few simple changes can help keep your pets safe and happy all season long.