Let’s keep holidays happy for pets as well as for people!
In the upcoming onslaught of holidays, we need to stay aware of possible hazards to our furry family members. The signature feasts at Thanksgiving and Christmas offer so many tempting smells we need to keep pets from helping themselves to unattended plates and glasses, leftovers not securely stored or disposed of, and guests giving in to begging because changes in diet, fatty or spicy foods, bones or possible bone pieces can wreak havoc on a pet’s digestive system. Vomiting, diarrhea, pancreatitis or even an obstruction or perforation could ruin your gathering and even threaten your pet’s life.
Remember too, that access to chocolate and other items that are sweetened with xylitol will still be present as will macadamia nuts, grapes, raisins, onions, unbaked yeast dough, alcoholic eggnogs and other items are fine for people but toxic to pets. A tiny bit of boneless turkey meat, or better yet, some green beans or a little sweet potato stuffed into a Kong or in their dish with their usual fare is generally safe if you feel you simply must let them share your feast. In case of any illness or change in behavior, contact your veterinarian or veterinary emergency clinic.
Beyond foods, decorations and toys can hold risks: the pollen from lilies in a centerpiece can injure your cat’s kidneys, even if she doesn’t snack on the petals or leaves. Many houseplants are somewhat toxic: check the ASPCA website for excellent pictures of toxic plants (http://aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants). It’s safest to just keep plants out of reach of pets. Toys, table or tree décor and gift wrappings can feature ribbons, strings, long feathers, fronds, or wires, all of which can entice playfulness in a pet but are dangerous if swallowed. Keep them out of reach or securely behind closed doors.
I have known a hound who found the six boxes of extra-special Belgian chocolates brought from Europe, lovingly wrapped, placed under the family tree; he opened and ate every package in a 15 minute lapse of human attention. Young pets, pets new to the household or shy and anxious pets are particularly at risk of dashing out a momentarily opened door when visitors are arriving or leaving; if pets can be comfortable in a quiet room away from the party they may be much happier and certainly safer there.
Be sure they are wearing identification on their collars and are microchipped and the chips are registered so that if they do escape, they have the best chance of being identified and reunited with you. Walking around the neighborhood with flashlights and raincoats, calling your pet’s name, is no way to end a party. Let your houseguests know your pet’s routines, so they won’t let the indoor-only cat outside or fail to alert you to the dog scratching at the door or whining. If your pet does escape, post notices and notify local animal control agencies and veterinary offices immediately, and do keep searching: most of the time the pet is simply frightened, has found a seemingly safe place to hole up for a little while, and will come out and be seen by someone within a few hours.
With planning and foresight, we’ll all enjoy our holidays safely and securely.
Dr. Andy Frost, Board of Directors and veterinarian at Pacific Veterinary Hospital