During the holidays, most animal related ER visits are due to eating something inappropriate. Some foods cause upset stomachs, some are poisonous, and some can cause life-threatening obstructions. We know that 60% of us will share our holiday meal with our pets, but you should follow a few basic guidelines. How can you make sure your holiday doesn’t end in disaster? Below are a few tips to help keep them safe:
1) A small amount of white turkey meat is an acceptable treat but definitely avoid the turkey skin and the turkey bones! The skin is often fatty and can cause pets to develop pancreatitis, a painful inflammation of the pet’s pancreas, which can cause death fairly quickly. The fat is thought to trigger the disease. Pet owners first notice their pets are just not normal, then they may seem to have a painful abdomen that gets worse as they become ill. Vomiting is the hallmark symptom. Even though symptoms range from mild to life-threatening, acute pancreatitis is a very painful condition. These pets will whine or cry, and often walk with a “hunched up” appearance; a sure sign of pain and that veterinary care is needed immediately! Dehydration, heart arrhythmias or blood clotting issues may occur without quick medical attention.
2) Poultry bones, especially cooked, have potential to both break off and cause a perforation of the digestive tract or, if large amounts are consumed, could cause an obstruction.
3) Other foods to avoid include: grapes and raisins, excessively salty foods, onions, garlic, foods flavored with onion or garlic powder, desserts and sweets containing Xylitol, and chocolates. Baker’s chocolate is EXTREMELY dangerous for pets!
4) All leftovers should be secured behind a pet-proof door.
5) Remember, keep your trash can secure. Many items used in the meal preparation and then thrown away can be dangerous. A turkey string, foil wrappers, etc may smell like food and be eaten by a curious pet.
6) Decorative plants are also a source of danger. Mistletoe and holly can cause vomiting and lilies are often deadly to cats. Poinsettias, despite their reputation, are not deadly and often cause little more than mild stomach upset.
7) Some holiday decorations are also dangerous. Ribbons and tinsel are especially attractive and hazardous to cats. Keep an eye on electrical cords to insure puppies and kittens don’t chew on them.
8) During family gatherings, it might be best to keep pets confined if they are overly anxious. Also, monitor people going in and out of the front door. Pets might take advantage and try to escape.
9) Keep your veterinarian’s phone number and the local animal emergency hospital handy. A quick call to either of them can give you life-saving advice or even help you avoid a trip to the ER.
10) Always remember that giving a pet as a Christmas present involves research, preparation and commitment. Pets require a lot of attention, and the adjustment to a new home is difficult for some animals during the holidays with all of the activity. It may cause things to get off to a bad start. Remember, pets aren’t gifts, they are lifetime commitments that require daily attention and care. They are a responsibility - not a toy, so be sure you are ready before you make that commitment. If you are considering gifting a pet, you should discuss it with the new owner to be sure they are ready to take on that responsibility. Lastly, please consider a shelter pet, there are many wonderful pets in shelters that need loving forever homes.
11) Fireworks and pets are NOT a good mix and many pets run from them only to end up confused and lost, or worse, injured from running into the paths of autos. PLEASE bring your dogs and cats inside BEFORE any fireworks start and keep them in until well after all of the flashes and bangs are finished for the evening. If your pet cannot come in the house, then consider containing it in your garage or shop or barn but please make sure to put pet hazardous items out of their reach.
Keep in mind that there may be fireworks throughout the weekend so you may need to bring them in each evening through the holiday weekend. Even fenced pets are at danger, when they become scared they will do whatever it takes to try and find safety. Bring them INSIDE, and do not wait too late to do so. Many people celebrate with fireworks throughout the evening.
12) Pet ID - Please be sure your pet is wearing identification should they get lost, this will make a big difference in getting them back. Current rabies tags, personalized tags, write your name and phone number on the collar, or have your pet microchipped. All of these things will help you find your pet if they escape.
Keep a current photo of your pet. Call your local shelter and report your pet immediately if they go missing. There are also numerous Facebook pages for Lost & Founds Pets in Alabama, many by county. Post your pet's information on these pages as well.
For additional information on Holiday Pet Safety click here for information from the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Click here to see The World's most dangerous foods for dogs.