The holiday season can be a merry celebration for every member of the family, furry companions included. Certain seasonal festivities, though, can pose potential health risks for pets: from poisonous plants to unhealthy table scraps. The providers of Olympia Pet Emergency, a 24-hour emergency veterinary clinic in Olympia, have tips for pet owners so their pets can have a safe and enjoyable holiday season alongside their human family.
Seasonal decorations, although a defining factor of the holiday season, can be a risk for pets if not properly secured. Christmas trees and any accompanying ornaments should be properly affixed so the tree doesn’t fall on a pet and so pets can’t get injured from shattered ornaments. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, trees can be fastened to a ceiling or a doorframe for extra security using fishing line. Stabilizing a tree is also important to avoid tree water spillage. Added fertilizers and bacteria in still tree water can cause nausea or diarrhea in a pet if ingested.
For houses with cats, the ASPCA says its best to avoid using tinsel as a decoration. Because of the tinsel’s light catching shimmer, cats see the decoration as a toy and may be tempted to nibble and accidently ingest it. A cat who has swallowed tinsel is at risk for vomiting, dehydration and an obstructed digestive system. Cats can end up at the emergency veterinary clinic in Olympia with blockages that require surgery, that’s a sure way to ruin everyone’s holiday.
Whether clear or rainbow-hued, it is best to keep twinkle lights and similar decorations containing wires out of a pet’s reach. If chewed, electrical wires can deliver a dangerous shock to pets. Battery packs that are pawed or chewed can lead to burns of the mouth and esophagus. Similarly, when burning a cozy candle, don’t leave pets unattended when a flame is lit. Place all candles on a stable surface that a pet can’t access and blow all candles out before leaving a room.
Holiday plants like mistletoe, holly, poinsettia, balsam, pine and cedar can also be harmful to a pet if consumed. These plants can potentially cause gastrointestinal and, in rare cases, cardiovascular issues. Just a nibble of a poinsettia can send your cat or small dog to the emergency vet clinic. Real plants can be substituted for more pet-friendly artificial varieties either made of silk or plastic. Non-toxic decorations, like wood and pinecones, can also be used as well.
With elaborate table spreads and holiday treats common practice at this time of the year, keep an eye on your pet’s snacking habits. Chocolate, if ingested, can be toxic to dogs and cats, depending on the type of chocolate and the amount a pet has eaten. Foods containing artificial sweeteners like xylitol are also harmful and can cause liver failure in dogs. Many dogs end up at the emergency vet clinic having ingested xylitol. Ensure all food is pushed away from the edges of tables and countertops and is out of a pet’s reach. Also make sure to secure garbage can lids so that pets don’t sneak an unsavory snack.
Be wary of feeding a pet table scraps, as many common human foods can be unsafe for dogs and cats. Foods that are spicy, fatty or undercooked should not be fed to a pet and should stay out of their reach. In addition, avoid feeding animals table scraps containing onions, raisins and grapes. Turkey, ham and other animal bones also shouldn’t be given to dogs or cats, as they can accidently choke on the bones or ingest bone shards. Keep any cocktails or alcoholic beverages away from where a pet could take a lap. Animal alcohol consumption can lead to weakness, coma, respiratory failure and possibly death.
As a suitable gift to a furry friend, try looking for chew toys that are difficult for pets to rip apart or snacks that are formulated specifically for pets that can be easily digested. For cats, avoid toys with long strings like yarn, ribbon or thread, which can be accidently consumed and get caught in intestines. Instead, opt for a stuffed toy containing catnip or an interactive cat dancer.
Keeping Your Pet Happy During Holiday Gatherings
Between family get-togethers and celebratory gatherings, the holiday season can bring extra guests into the home. When expecting company, set up a quiet, private space for your pet away from any guests, should they want to bow out of the festivities. Make sure their sanctuary is complete with fresh water and a cozy area for napping.
When inviting guests over, inform everyone ahead of time that an animal will be present in the house. This will enable guests with pet allergies or compromised immune systems to take extra provisions to stay healthy.
During a party, monitor house entrances and keep doors and windows secure so that pets can’t slip out during the hustle and bustle. This can be especially important around New Year’s Eve, as pets can be scared of firework noise. As midnight approaches, make sure pets are kept in an area where they are most comfortable and cannot escape, should they be upset by firework blasts.
If a pet does get into trouble this holiday season, plan ahead and know the numbers to both your primary veterinary clinic and the local emergency animal hospital. Olympia Pet Emergency is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to care for pets in distress. For any pet-related concerns or conditions, contact Olympia Pet Emergency at 360-455-5155. For more information about pet safety, visit the Olympia Pet Emergency website.