Pet Safety through the Holidays

a dog trying to eat cookies and a cat drinking milk off the tableOur pets are a part of the family, and a part of our holiday celebrations. But the change in routine the holidays brings about can bring in new risks to your pet’s health. Decorations, presents, and family gatherings all include risks which could lead to a pet’s illness or injury if we’re not aware. To avoid these, we’ll be listing the biggest risks for dogs and cats during the holidays and how to protect them this year and for all the years to come.

Dogs

Many dog parents give their furry friends their own stocking stuffed with treats and toys. While this is a great way to include your pets in the festivities you should make sure that the treats and toys you give them are safe. Dogs get excited easily, and will happily eat up as many treats as they can get to at once. In this excitement they tend not to chew properly and end up with their treats stuck in their windpipes or digestive tract.

Usually this will just lead to temporary discomfort and the food will start to break down in the digestive tract enough for it to loosen and continue through the body properly. However, if the piece is too large to break down or gets stuck somewhere where there are no bodily fluids to help it dissolve, the dog may not be able to digest it and need to see a vet. Foods stuck in the windpipe can cause breathing problems and will require immediate veterinary attention.

dog playing with christmas decorationsThe dogs at the biggest risk for food getting stuck are small breeds, and all dogs should be watched while eating and not allowed to have a large amount at any one time. Also try to train your dog to not get too excited over food, if they react to and eat their presents calmly they eliminate the risk of getting it stuck. As for toys, try to avoid toys that your dog can and will rip to pieces as they might accidentally swallow parts of the toy that could be dangerous. Always supervise your dog with a new toy and choose safe, organic materials.

It’s easy to be tempted to give your dog table scraps, more so during special meals and large gatherings. But high fat foods, such as fat from meat or bird skins can easily lead to pancreatitis in dogs. A dog with pancreatitis will show signs of vomiting, stomach pain, restlessness, shaking, diarrhea, fever, and weakness. Consider a pet safe snack to have for the dog while your family is eating their meal, or make sure to only give them table food they can eat safely such as thoroughly cooked, chemical free, lean meats cut into easy to chew pieces.

Remember to dispose of bones and other leftovers somewhere where your pet can’t help themselves to them. Most dogs have no qualms about eating from the trash if something in there catches their interest.

Human treats, and not just chocolate, can pose risks to dogs too. While most dogs will not get severe complications from a bite of chocolate, it is toxic to them and not good for them to have in any significant amounts. A health risk many pet owners aren’t aware of is from a single ingredient found in a variety of snacks. Xylitol, which is common to find in mints, candy, gum, some peanut butters, baked goods, toothpaste, and mouthwash is harmless to humans but life threatening to dogs. Check package labels before giving any human foods to your dog and call your veterinarian immediately if your dog has consumed anything with xylitol in it.

Cats

cat playing with tinsel around a christmas treeWhile not likely to harm themselves with their own treats or toys, and less likely to be graced with table scraps, the holidays can risk cats’ health too. A lot of Christmas decorations are attractive to cats and look to them like great toys. Tinsel and ribbons dangle and inspire cats’ instincts to hunt. But these decorations are not made of edible material, and can lead to serious health problems if swallowed. Make sure to not leave any ribbons or string around once the presents are done and do not put tinsel on your trees or around your house if you have cats.

Cats can also easily make themselves sick by munching on your holiday plants. Poinsettias, mistletoe, and holly all contain different toxins which range from temporarily irritating to severe. Poinsettias tend to have a white sap which cats accidentally ingest while chewing on the plant, this sap irritates their mouth and stomach. Mistletoe contains lectins and phoratoxins which are both toxic to felines in large amounts. And holly, while not deadly, does have mild toxins of its own that can cause temporary drooling, vomiting, loss of appetite, and sluggishness.

Take care if you keep any plants in your home, keeping them away from the cat or keeping watch to make sure your cat isn’t interested in them before leaving them around. And when disposing of plants keep the trash where the cat cannot pull it out and get at it that way.

With this in mind you can help keep your pets safe throughout the holidays and keep the joy going throughout the season. Best wishes and happy holidays from the DR Vitamins Team.

By Samantha Dillon, DR Vitamin Solutions