For most of us the holidays are a time to eat, drink and enjoy good friends and family. Pet expert, veterinarian and author, Dr Carol Osborne, DVM helps pet owners refresh their pet health IQ and offers some helpful hints so the traditions are as joyous for you as they are for your pets.
Pet Holiday Safety Basics
Be sure your dog and cat are healthy, has his or her Identification tags and collar. Take a few safety precautions and use lots of every day common sense! Try decorating your home according to the age, activity level and temperament of your pets and children. If they are young and active, consider homemade expendable ornaments. These are also a great, safe and fun family project. Holidays are hectic for all of us and that means stress for pets! To minimize your pets stress try to keep your pets diet, snacks and routine as close to normal as possible. Be sure your pet has a quiet place to go so he or she can relax when he’s had enough. This helps avoid behavioral problems especially with children.
Herbal Stress Remedy: Flowers/Bach’s Rescue Remedy is wonderful, effective and very safe for dogs, cats and people. Place a few drops in your pet’s mouth, food or water bowl to relieve stress and anxiety.
TIP: Avoid pets as gifts, especially over the holidays
Holiday House Plants Hazardous to Pets
- House plants, in general are more of a problem for cats as opposed to dogs.
- TIP: Consider safe alternatives such as artificial arrangements made from silk.
- **Lilly’s are lovely but many varieties, including Tiger, Asian, Japanese Show, Stargazer and Casa Blanca can cause Kidney failure in Cats.
- Poinsettias are often talked about, but are very overrated with respect to being toxic to pets. At worst they can cause an upset stomach.
- Mistletoe: The berries are very toxic. Stomach upset and fatal heart problems may develop in dogs and cats if they ingest the berries.
- Holly and English Ivy may cause vomiting, diarrhea nausea and lethargy
- Amaryllis can cause vomiting and diarrhea
- Hibiscus can cause diarrhea
Safety Tips for Holiday Lights, Electric Cords, Candles & Fragrances
- Lights: Buy UL approved lights and turn them off when you’re not home and at night while you are asleep.
- Electric cords and extension cords are popular to chew on especially. for puppies. Hide them in empty wrapping paper tube and cover them with cute foil. Try taping them securely to your floor. Buy pet proof extension cords. Owners can also spray cords with bitter apple or chew stop to deter pets from chewing on them.
- Candles are fragrant and enticing to pets, especially curious puppies. Place them up high out of paw reach. Fires are a hazard to pets and the fumes are toxic to birds. Wagging tails can easily knock candles over, burn your pet or worse yet start a fire.
- Fireplace screens are a good idea. Cats like to use the fireplace for a litter box.
Holiday Decorations and Pets
- Use velvet bows instead of hooks to hang ornaments
- Ornaments: Consider using non breakable, pet proof ornaments. For example, try homemade decorations made of cardboard, plastic, dried non toxic flowers, fabric and wood pine cones.
- Use two tone ribbons instead of garland, tinsel and angel hair. This is especially important for cat owners. Cats love to eat and play with tinsel and angel hair. If they ingest either, they can block and obstruct their intestines. This condition often requires expensive surgery to correct and remove. Vets call this a linear foreign body when it is viewed on an x-ray.
Liquid potpourri, which is often placed in decorative bowls and simmering pots and Sachets are very popular during the holidays. They are also very dangerous, especially to cats. They can easily spill onto your cat’s fur, for example if your cat rubs against them. The result is that they are then ingested accidentally, as your cat grooms himself. Once ingested they can cause ulceration and damage to your cat’s mouth, skin and eyes. If this occurs,give your cat a bath in warm ivory soap, wrap in towel, offer warm milk and call your vet. Most cats recover in a few days of mouth.
- Keep aluminum foil and cellophane candy wrappers away from your pets. They can cause vomiting and intestinal blockage
- Batteries: Keep batteries away from your pets. They contain corrosives which can ulcerate your pet’s mouth, tongue and intestines, whether they are bitten on chewed on and/or swallowed
Holiday Foods & Beverages-that may be toxic to Pets
- Don’t allow your pet access to holiday spreads especially, if you’ve got a chow hound.
- Alcoholic beverages can cause pets to become drunk, weak and depressed. They can end up in a coma.
Yeast Dough: Yeast dough, especially uncooked or raw yeast dough is a real problem for dogs. If your dog ingests this, the dough will rise in your dogs stomach and causes a painful stomach ache, bloat and vomiting. Dogs can become disoriented and depressed. The breakdown product of rising dough is alcohol, which can cause alcohol poisoning. Many cases require surgical removal of the dough. Even small amounts if eaten can be very dangerous to your dog.
- Chocolate (bakers, semisweet, milk & dark) Dogs that ingest chocolate may show signs such as vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, hyperactivity and an elevated heart rate. This can occur if a 10 pound dog eats just ¼ ounce of baking chocolate. This is not usually a problem in cats.
- Tobacco products: Tobacco can be fatal for dogs and cats. Signs of nicotine poisoning usually develop in 15-45 minutes. Symptoms include: excitement, salivation, panting, vomiting and diarrhea. Then muscle weakness, twitching, depression, coma, and even cardiac arrest may occur.
- Coffee, including: ground, beans, chocolate covered expresso beans, contains caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant and signs include pets becoming restless, along with an increased heart rate, tremors and/or seizures.
- Macadamia Nuts: can cause muscular weakness, depression, vomiting, disorientation, and tremors stomach pain and muscle stiffness in dogs. This usually lasts from one to three days and most dogs recover are fine. This has not been reported to occur in any other species.
- Grapes & Raisins: The exact mechanism of action and toxic principal are still being determined by the ASPCA Poison control Center but eating large amounts can cause kidney failure in dogs and there has been one reported case of kidney failure in a cat that ate raisins.
- Watch out for the string used to tie up your turkey or roast as well as the little red “pop up” thermometers. Dogs and cats love to eat these tasty treats which can cause intestinal blockage.
- TIP: Don’t give your pet bones! Bones can splinter and lacerate your pet’s intestines.
- TIP: Turkey contains an amino acid called Tryptophan. Tryptophan is actually calming to pets and people, which is part of the reason most of us feel a bit sleepy after eating turkey. If your dog is nervous because of all the festivity, try a little turkey to calm his nerves.
Medications: Keep all prescriptions and over the counter medicines tucked away and out of your pets reach. Remind holiday guests to store their medications safely as well.
- During the holidays many vets have limited office hours. It is a good idea to keep the number of a nearby veterinary emergency facility posted in a convenient place as well as the number of the Animal Poison Control Center Consultation Services. (1-888-426-4435) (1 888-4ANI-HELP)
- Always check with your vet before giving your pet medication. Many medications safe for you can be very harmful, or even deadly to your pet.
- Less than 1 regular strength acetaminophen, for example a 325mg strength Tylenol, can be dangerous to a cat weighing just 7 pounds.
- Less than 1 regular strength ibuprofen (200mg) tablet can cause stomach ulceration in a 7 pound cat.
- Give your pet a little extra attention over the holidays, so he or she doesn’t feel like he’s been forgotten. Take your pet out for an extra walk or enjoy creative play time together with a variety of safe pet toys. Let your pet get into the gift of giving-make a donation of pet food, litter, or toys, to your local shelter or favorite charity and put it in your pet’s name.
- Always be prepared and remember the best gift of all is your LOVE!