The holidays are a time for gathering with family to celebrate and be merry, but nothing ruins merriment faster than a cat that is vomiting, or a dog with diarrhea!
Here are a few tips and reminders for keeping your pets happy and safe this holiday season!
Decorative lights on the tree and around the house are important parts of decorating for Christmas, but they can also be very dangerous to our pets. If chewed on, wires and extension cords can cause an electric shock, mouth burns, and even electrocution, so make sure cords are protected and extension cords are 3 prong and grounded.
Ornaments may seem like just another chew toy to dogs, but broken pieces pose a serious choking hazard, and if swallowed can cause an intestinal blockage. The largest culprit when it comes to intestinal blockages is tinsel. Cats in particular seem to have an affinity for tinsel. This makes sense because it’s shiny and appears to be moving when it’s dangling from the tree. Although it is best not to even have tinsel in your house if you have pets, if they exhibit any signs of a blockage, such as vomiting and diarrhea, don’t take any chances and get them to a vet right away. Never pull the tinsel if it is hanging out of your pet’s mouth (or the other end!) because if wrapped around the intestines, this action can be fatal. A blockage is an extremely dangerous situation that can be avoided by simply not having decorations like tinsel in your house.
Most of us are aware of the dangers of certain Christmas ornaments, but do you know the tree itself also poses some potential hazards for pets?
- Falling Trees - Not surprisingly, cats are pretty infamous for trying to climb Christmas trees, as well as using the trunk for a scratching post. Being very curious creatures, it makes sense that your cat may not be able to resist the temptation of that awesome new “climbing toy” that just showed up in the living room! You may not be able to stop them from getting into some mischief, but you can prevent the tree from falling and potentially injuring your cat. To properly secure your tree, use a stable and appropriately sized stand, and tie the tree to hooks on the ceiling and/or nearby walls.
- Pine Needle Dangers - Pine needles can irritate the esophagus, and if ingested, can cause a number of symptoms including vomiting and diarrhea. They can even become stuck in the intestines and require surgical removal. Avoid any potential problems by sweeping up any needles that have fallen.
- Tree Stand Water – Prevent your pets from drinking from the water reservoir in your tree stand by covering it. This water may contain additives and preservatives, as well as mold and bacteria, all of which can cause stomach upset in cats and dogs.
Plants are often used to enhance the holiday ambiance, but can be hazardous to our pets, some more than others.
Highly Dangerous Holiday Plants
- Amaryllis – These flowering plans are most toxic to cats, although dogs can also suffer if they chew it. The bulb contains more toxin than the leaves or flower stalk. Common toxicity symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and decreased appetite. More severe symptoms include tremors, kidney failure and convulsions.
- English Ivy – All parts of this plant are toxic. The leaves taste terrible, which usually discourages chewing. Toxicity symptoms include an irritated mouth and gastritis. Worse cases include dizziness or coma.
- Jerusalem Cherry – All parts of this plant are toxic, especially the leaves and unripe fruit. Toxicity symptoms include nausea or vomiting and, if enough is consumed, seizures.
- Mistletoe – Unfortunately, this hallmark holiday plant holds toxic potential, but clinical cases only note signs of depression and vomiting with no more serious symptoms.
Harmful Holiday Plants
- Poinsettia – Another holiday hallmark plant, the poinsettia is likely to cause a stomachache, vomiting or diarrhea in dogs and excessive drooling in cats. The upside is that the plant tastes bad, so pets are not likely to keep eating it once they sample it.
- English Holly – Most animals will avoid this plant because it tastes bad. But for those that don’t catch on quickly, it may cause lip smacking, vomiting, diarrhea or possibly depression.
- Cyclamen – The beet-like stems and roots contain toxin which can produce intestinal distress if eaten.
- Christmas Cactus – This plant is likely to cause mild vomiting and diarrhea if eaten.
If you have these plants in your house, be sure to take precautions in order to keep your pets safe. This includes moving them to high places where pets cannot get to them, as well as picking up any fallen leaves or berries. If you suspect your pet has been poisoned, call your veterinarian immediately. You can also contact the Poison Control Center.
If you put a gift under the tree, and you have pets, consider two things. What is it wrapped with, and what’s in it? Just like tinsel, if ribbon is ingested, it can cause a life-threatening intestinal blockage. And if what is inside the package is at all tempting, best to air on the side of caution, and keep it out of the reach of pets.
The holidays are typically celebrated with an abundance of food! Unfortunately, this can sometimes pose a risk for our pets, whether it’s eating something they should not, or just overeating in general. There are some foods that your dog should never under any circumstances be fed, and some foods that are okay in moderation.
- Artificial sweetener Xylitol (Found in many Desserts and candy is extremely toxic and only a small amount can be deadly)
- Bones and fat trimmings
- Garlic and onions
- Grapes, raisins and nuts
- Foods high in fat
Busy Holiday Homes
Many of us will be staying with relatives over the holiday, perhaps in an unfamiliar town and/or an unfamiliar house. Your pets may feel some anxiety around their new surroundings and some may be overwhelmed by the activity of a busy house with many people.
It’s extremely important to always be aware of their stress level. A dog for instance, that is not familiar with kids, should be monitored very closely or kept separated from them entirely. If possible, bring your pet’s bed or crate and place them in a quiet area where your pet can retreat to if needed.
Be prepared for emergencies by locating the closest vet or emergency services, putting their contact info in your phone, and familiarizing yourself with the route you would take to get there.
And if your house is the place where everyone will be gathering, keep a very close eye on your pets as people are coming and going. Hundreds of pets go missing over the holidays, and sadly, more than 80% are never reunited with their owners. Being vigilant about keeping your pets safe is always important, but even more so over the holidays.
How To Be Prepared
There are some simple steps you can take to ensure that even if issues do arise, you will be prepared.
Keep the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center number handy. This is your best resource for any animal poison-related emergency. If you think your pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance, call (888) 426-4435. They are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Be prepared to stop digestive issues in your dog or cat quickly by having the following products on hand:
- Bland Diets for dogs
- Ready Balance Gel for cats and dogs
- Anti-Diarrhea for cats and dogs
And if your pet is experiencing some holiday stress, try Calming Powder and Calming Chews with and without CBD.
With some precautions and preparedness, you and your pets will be able to relax and enjoy all the fun that comes with celebrating the holiday season!
Products related to this article:
- Bland Diets for Dogs
- Ready Balance Gel for Cats
- Ready Balance Gel For Dogs
- Anti-Diarrhea for Cats
- Anti-Diarrhea for Dogs
- Calming Products for Cats
- Calming Products for Dogs
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If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet's health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.