- Not a substitute for professional veterinary help.
Holidays are a time when vets should be on stand-by. Between the tinsel-eating cats and chocolate-scarfing dogs, it’s a wonder our fur families survive the holiday season at all! While many emergency vets keep their doors open, if in doubt, owners shouldn’t think twice about contacting their local or provincial Humane Society or SPCA offices.
Some things, like dark chocolate or chicken bones, are obviously risky for pets. But what about other typical, and often overlooked, holiday hazards?
Here are the top five dangers for pets, during the holidays, and every day.
Chocolate is one of the worst things a dog can eat. Fatty foods like bacon or even turkey drippings should also be avoided. High fat, high salty foods can cause upset stomachs, water retention and bloat, and even pancreatitis.
A less obvious, and practically invisible, human food to steer clear of is xylitol. Xylitol is a sugar substitute used in many sugar-free foods. Anything sweetened with xylitol, including peanut butter, can be extremely dangerous for your dog, so be sure to check the labels before handing over a peanut butter stuffed chewy. Sugar-free gum, mints and other candies often contain xylitol, so keep purses and bags high up on shelves so your dog can’t stick her nose in it. For other holiday food tips, check out Holiday Foods: Do’s and Dont’s for Your Dog.
When it comes to plants, stick with the cat-nip. Many holiday plants can be dangerous, or even lethal for your cat or dog. One of the worst culprits is our seasonal favourite, lilies. “It takes only a nibble or lick to send a cat into acute kidney failure, which can be fatal,” according to the Preventive Vet. Keep your eye on another seasonal fave, poinsettias. While you don’t need to totally steer clear of them, if the leaves are eaten they can cause GI upset in pets.
Cyclamen plants add a pop of colour to a dreary winter day and are commonly found in groceries around this time of year. These eye-catching and long-blooming beauties can also cause a myriad of issues for your pets. The plants’ toxins can disrupt digestion and cause excessive salivation in dogs, and can even result in seizures and heart rhythm abnormalities.
Does anyone even enjoy fruitcake? It’s one of those holiday traditions that everyone embraces but no one seems to actually eat. While you probably don’t like it, your dog might so it’s in everyone’s best interest to steer clear of this holiday punchline. All jokes aside, the combination of yeast, currants and raisins is highly toxic and can cause kidney damage.
Lights and ribbons and candles, oh my! All the gorgeous holiday decor can be both intriguing and tasty to a dog or cat. A little taste of tinsel can result in an obscured digestive tract in your cat which, in turn, can cause severe vomiting, dehydration and even surgery.
Avoid a visit to the vet by keeping your dog and cat away from holiday decorations. If holiday planning has you too busy, consider a pet sitter or dog walker who can help distract your pets and burn off any extra holiday energy.
Electronics make for fabulous gifts. Whether the batteries are included or stuck to the side of the box, they can easily cause a lot of damage to your pets if consumed. Think of batteries like you do chocolate because they are toxic. Toxicity levels can be moderate to severe and if they are swallowed may lead to full-on surgery. If your dog chews on batteries he finds lost in piles of wrapping paper, contact your veterinary professional. Battery acid can burn an animal’s esophagus and lithium can cause corrosive injury.
The Bottom Line
If your pet accidentally eats something harmful during the holiday season, call the Pet Poison Helpline, a 24/7 poison control service available throughout Canada, the US and the Caribbean.
If you can’t find a safe space for your pets, away from dangerous decor or potential hazards, hiring a dog walker or pet sitter to watch your pets may be the best money you’ve ever spent. Consider it a holiday gift to yourself! A Rover pet sitter can take your dog out for some good, safe fun while you put the finishing touches on your own holiday adventures.