The holiday season may be the most wonderful time of the year, but the festivities can present many hazards for your pet. Between buying your Christmas gifts and making your New Year’s resolutions, take time to ensure your pet stays safe. Our team at Premier Pet Hospital wants to help by explaining what potential hazards your pet could encounter this holiday season.
#1: The Christmas tree is dangerous for your pet
Nothing puts you in the holiday spirit like a beautifully decorated Christmas tree, but the lovely evergreen can be problematic for your pet.
- Ornaments — Glass and plastic ornaments can break, resulting in shards that could injure your pet. Avoid hanging these ornaments in areas your pet can access.
- Tinsel — Icicles are a lovely addition, but your pet’s attraction to their shine may lead to accidental ingestion, which could cause a gastrointestinal obstruction. If not surgically removed, the linear obstruction could lead to intestinal perforation.
- Lights — Some pets are compelled to chew on cords, and could be shocked if they bite on the Christmas tree lights. Ensure lights are hung out of your pet’s reach, and use cord covers to protect your pet from injury.
- Water — The Christmas tree water may contain fertilizers or bacteria that could harm your pet. Block off the Christmas tree’s base, so your pet can’t drink the water.
#2: Christmas stockings are dangerous for your pet
Everyone loves stocking stuffers, but these small gifts can cause serious issues for your dog or cat.
- Chocolate — No Christmas stocking is complete without a chocolate treat, but chocolate is toxic to pets. Theobromine and caffeine are toxins in chocolate that cause signs including restlessness, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- Xylitol — This artificial sweetener is commonly found in sugar-free gums and candy. When ingested by a pet, xylitol causes a dose-dependent insulin release, and your pet’s blood sugar will drop. Signs include weakness, incoordination, and seizures.
- Small objects — Small toys that fit in Christmas stockings can easily be ingested by your pet, resulting in a gastrointestinal obstruction.
#3: The holiday feast is dangerous for your pet
Your pet will likely be tempted to sneak a yummy morsel from the holiday table, but the decadent food can cause issues, including gastrointestinal upset and pancreatitis, a painful, potentially emergency situation. In addition, many foods hold other dangers for your pet.
- Bones — Cooked bones, including turkey bones, are brittle and can break easily, with sharp edges that could injure your pet’s mouth or esophagus.
- Onions — Onions and other Allium family vegetables, such as garlic, leeks, shallots, and chives, contain a toxin that can damage your pet’s red blood cells, leading to anemia. Signs include lethargy, vomiting, blood in the urine, and pale mucous membranes.
- Grapes — Grapes, as well as raisins, contain a toxin that can cause kidney failure in pets.
#4: The holiday gatherings are dangerous for your pet
Celebrating Christmas and toasting the New Year with friends and family makes the holiday season special, but these gatherings can be stressful for your pet. Take precautions to keep your pet safe, including:
- Designating a safe zone — Create a special area for your pet in a quiet room, where they can retreat if the shenanigans upset them. If your pet is shy, you may consider restricting them to this room until your guests leave.
- Microchipping your pet — Pets can easily sneak away when guests are going in and out, and properly identifying them will ensure they are returned to you if they go missing. In addition to microchipping your pet, ensure they wear a collar and identification tags that have your current contact information.
#5: Fireworks can be dangerous for your pet
Many pets become anxious during fireworks displays, and some suffer from noise phobias that cause high stress levels. Steps you can take to alleviate your pet’s distress include:
- Stay home — Don’t leave your pet alone to suffer by themselves. Your presence will comfort them, and let them know they are safe.
- Modify their situation — Take your pet to the most soundproof room in your home well before the fireworks start, and turn on the television or music to help muffle the noise. You can also give them a food puzzle toy as a distraction.
- Modify their behavior — If you know in advance your pet has noise-related anxiety issues, you can use desensitization and counterconditioning methods to modify their behavior. Start by playing an audio recording of firework noise at full volume, to verify your pet becomes anxious when exposed to the noise. If they do, turn the volume down until they no longer seem upset, and offer them a high value treat and praise. Gradually increase the volume, offering treats as long as they remain calm. This technique requires many sessions over several days or weeks to be successful.
- Consider medications — Several anti-anxiety supplements and medications are available that may benefit your pet. Consult our veterinary professionals, to see if these options are right for your pet.
Protect your pet from holiday hazards by following our advice. If you think your pet could benefit from anti-anxiety supplements or medication, contact our American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)-accredited team at Premier Pet Hospital, so we can help alleviate their distress.
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