At the happiest time of the year, Animal Internal Medicine and Specialty Services wants your pets to be happy, too. Especially in 2020, no one needs a pet emergency adding to their stress. Read on to learn how to ensure the holidays, with their festive foods, activities, and decorations, are happy and healthy for you and your pets.

Festive food dangers for pets

Many foods that grace your holiday table, or end up in the trash, can cause problems for your pet. Keep an eye out for these emergency scenarios:

  • Make no bones about it — If pets are allowed to chew on bones, they may be singing “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth.” Swallowing sharp bones can cause internal damage, and chewing on bones can fracture a pet’s teeth. Indestructible chew toys such as Kongs are a safer option.
  • Pancreatitis pain — Ingesting large amounts of unusual foods and desserts—especially those high in fat—can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and pancreatitis in pets. Pancreatitis is a painful, potentially life-threatening condition in pets.
  • Treats for us, toxic for pets — Pets must not eat chocolate, raisins, grapes, macadamia nuts, onions, and garlic, which are all toxic to pets, as is xylitol, an artificial sweetener found in many candies and foods. Rising yeast bread dough may expand in your pet’s stomach and cause bloat, and can also cause alcohol poisoning. If you have concerns about anything your pet has ingested, we recommend calling us, or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center

Festive activity risks for pets

Holiday activities and gatherings can also pose a hazard to your pet. Let your guests in on the house rules, keeping in mind these situations:

  • Fire hazard fright — Don’t let candles get run over by a reindeer—or a pet. Luminaries provide a festive glow, but any flame is a hazard for excited pets, including leashed pets. Battery-operated votives are a safe alternative. 
  • Fireworks fear — This year, many holiday parades have been replaced with fireworks, which will repeat on New Year’s Eve. If you suspect your pet has a noise phobia, a pre-holiday visit to your veterinarian for advice and possibly an anti-anxiety prescription can prevent pet stress and injury. 
  • Praise as the prize — With praise and pats as the prize instead of table food, your pet can be a part of the family fun, and safely join in any reindeer games.  
  • No tippling — Alcohol is certainly a no-no for all pets. Don’t place tempting drinks, such as egg nog, where your pet can reach. Cats and dogs can get alcohol poisoning from drinking a relatively small amount of alcohol.

Festive decor dangers to pets

As you deck your halls, take precautions to prevent a decor-related disaster, such as:

  • Oh, tipping tree — Ensure your tree is secured and won’t tip over—many an adventurous kitten has been known to climb the Christmas tree. For cut, non-artificial trees, this also keeps the water basin steady, so pets aren’t tempted to lap spilled water. Check holiday tree water additive labels for the phrase “pet-safe.”
  • Chew toys on tree-tops? — Pets often mistake ornaments for chew toys, but sharp ornaments or strings such as tinsel can be disastrous for them. Dry fir tree needles ingested by pets cause stomach and intestinal irritation. Confining pets away from the area is the surest way to avoid holiday tree mishaps.
  • Holiday plant hazards and more — Mistletoe and holly are toxic to pets, and lilies cause serious kidney damage in cats. Biting an electric cord can fatally shock pets, and biting into a battery releases acid that can burn your pet’s mouth, esophagus, and stomach. Liquid potpourri, especially if heated, can cause several problems in pets and should never be accessible.

Low-risk holiday concerns for pets

Thankfully, not all holiday-related activities, decor, and foods are problematic for pets, including these oft-concerning items: 

  • Poinsettias — Pet owners are often concerned if their pet chews on a poinsettia, but these plants are only mildly toxic, especially compared with lilies and mistletoe. Mild stomach upset and irritation may occur, as when any plant material is ingested. Christmas cactus is also considered non-toxic to pets. 
  • Silica gel packets — These packets, which keep moisture away from shoes and other gifts, are typically labelled “do not eat,” but, for pets who do eat, Animal Internal Medicine and Specialty Services’ urgent care service often receives calls from worried owners. The packets are not toxic to pets, although you should ensure your pet stays hydrated. Do call us, however, if a small pet ingests a large packet whole, as they may be at risk of a blockage.
  • Human food treat options — To keep your pet’s diet steady, use your pet’s regular kibble as treats, or bake into a treat the canned version of their usual food. If you must reach for human foods, most healthy pets can tolerate small amounts of unseasoned sweet potato or green beans.

Animal Internal Medicine and Specialty Services wishes you and your pets a jolly holiday season, and we are here 24/7/365 should you have any concerns at any time about your pet. Never hesitate to give our dedicated urgent care specialists a call.