Christmas Holiday Hazards

Keep your pets healthy this Christmas with these tips!

The holiday season is almost upon us! As you gear up for the holidays, it is important to try to keep your pet’s eating and exercise habits as close to their normal routine as possible. Also, during the holiday season be sure to avoid the following unhealthy treats, toxic plants and dangerous decorations.

Christmas Trees

Securely anchor your Christmas tree so it doesn’t tip and fall, avoiding possible injury to your pet and preventing the tree water from spilling. It is important that your pet isn’t able to get to the tree water and drink it as it could result in illness. Stagnant tree water is a breeding ground for bacteria, and your pet could end up with nausea or diarrhea. Make sure the tree has plenty of water to prevent the tree drying out & losing needles. Christmas tree pine needles can puncture internal organs if eaten; they are also toxic and can produce oral irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, trembling and weakness. Pine trees can also be a cause of skin irritation in pets with skin allergies.

Holiday Plants and Bouquets

Contrary to popular belief, poinsettia plants are not deadly but only mildly toxic, however, they can cause irritation to the mouth and stomach and sometimes vomiting if a large quantity is consumed. Far more worrisome are holiday bouquets containing lilies, holly or mistletoe. Many varieties of lilies are extremely toxic to cats; the ingestion of only one to two leaves or flower petals is enough to cause sudden kidney failure in cats. Holly, when ingested, can cause pets to suffer nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Mistletoe can cause significant vomiting and diarrhea, difficulty breathing, collapse, erratic behavior, hallucinations and death when ingested. Opt instead for artificial plants made from silk or plastic, or choose a pet-safe bouquet.

Holiday Ornaments and Decorations

If you own a cat, forego the tinsel, what looks like a shiny, lively toy to your cat can prove deadly if ingested. A playful nibble can lead to a swallow, which can lead to an obstructed digestive tract, severe vomiting and dehydration. Treatment for this often involves expensive abdominal surgery to remove the tinsel and if not caught in time, this foreign body ingestion could actually be fatal as it twists and bunches inside your pet’s intestines.

Don’t leave lighted candles unattended. Be sure to use appropriate candle holders, placed on a stable surface. And if you leave the room, put the candle out! Pets may burn themselves on the flame or hot wax or even cause a fire if they knock candles over. Keep wires, batteries and glass or plastic ornaments out of paws’ reach. A wire can deliver a potentially lethal electrical shock and a punctured battery can cause burns to the mouth and esophagus, while shards of breakable ornaments can damage your pet’s mouth and digestive tract. Check your holiday lights for signs of fraying or chewing and use a grounded three-prong extension cord as a safety precaution.

Holiday decorations such as snow globes or bubble lights may contain poisonous chemicals and if your pet chews on them the liquid inside could cause illness. Methylene chloride, the chemical in bubble lights, can result in depression, aspiration pneumonia and irritation to the eyes, skin and gastrointestinal tract. Imported snow globes have been found to contain antifreeze (ethylene glycol). As little as one teaspoon of antifreeze when ingested by a cat or a tablespoon or two for a dog (depending on their size), can be fatal. Signs of early poisoning include acting drunk or uncoordinated, excessive thirst, and lethargy. While signs may seem to improve after eight to twelve hours, internal damage is actually worsening, and crystals develop in the kidneys resulting in acute kidney failure. Immediate treatment with an antidote is vital when dealing with antifreeze.

Gift wrap and ribbon can also pose a threat to pets, it’s best to quickly discard ribbons and bows wrapped around holiday gifts so that your curious companions won’t be enticed to chew or swallow them. Ingested ribbon can cause a choking hazard and ultimately twist throughout the intestines, leading to emergency surgery.

Holiday Food and Drink Hazards

With the holiday season comes a delightful variety of baked goods, chocolate confections and other rich, fattening foods. However, in many cases it is quite dangerous to share these treats with your pets. Try to keep your pet on his or her regular diet over the holidays and do not let family and friends sneak in treats. Make sure to keep your pets away from the table and unattended plates of food, and be sure to secure the lids on garbage cans.

It is very tempting to give the dog the remains of the Christmas turkey and although it seems natural to give a dog a bone, just remember, bones can kill. Dog can choke on bones or when chewed the bones can splinter and cause life threatening obstruction or lacerations of your dog’s digestive system. A surgical procedure is the only way to remove bones from the intestinal tract. Christmas meals often produce a lot of fatty leftovers and the family pet often ends up being given these. Excessively fatty foods can cause pancreatitis which is inflammation of the pancreas. It is very painful and requires intensive care for the animals’ intestinal system to get back to normal.

Desserts also pose a threat to your pets, most of us are aware now that chocolate is toxic to dogs and cats but other less well known risks in our sweet treats include the artificial sweetener xylitol, grapes/raisins and certain nuts. Chocolate and cocoa contain theobromine, a chemical highly toxic to dogs and cats, ingestion in small amounts can cause vomiting and diarrhea but large amounts can cause hyperactivity, tremors, seizures and heart arrhythmias. Many sugarless gums and candies contain xylitol, a sweetener, which is toxic to dogs as it causes a life-threatening drop in blood sugar and liver failure. Foods containing grapes, raisins and currants, such as fruitcakes, can result in kidney failure in dogs. Abundant in many cookies and candies, certain nuts should not be given to pets. Almonds, non-moldy walnuts and pistachios can cause an upset stomach or an obstruction of your dog’s throat and/or intestinal tract. Macadamia nuts and moldy walnuts can be toxic, causing seizures or neurological signs. Lethargy, vomiting and loss of muscle control are among the effects of nut ingestion.

Keep your pets sober this holiday season! If your celebration includes adult holiday beverages, be sure to place your unattended alcoholic drinks where pets cannot get to them. Because alcohol is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, it affects pets quickly. Ingestion of alcohol can cause dangerous drops in blood sugar, blood pressure and body temperature. Severely intoxicated animals can experience seizures and respiratory failure. Foods such as desserts containing alcohol and unbaked dough that contains yeast should also be kept away from pets as they may result in alcohol toxicity, vomiting, disorientation and stomach bloat.

Pet Anxiety/Stress

Christmas is often a busy time with visitors coming & going. Some pets love the attention of visitors while others find strangers in their house stressful. Be mindful of your pets feelings and give the option of somewhere quiet to escape to should the need arise. This is particularly important if your friends & relatives have young children.

Christmas is a time of year to celebrate and be with family, the last thing anyone would want is to be stuck in a veterinary clinic on Christmas day. Taking precautions with pets during these festive times can help ensure that you and your family will enjoy a happy and healthy holiday season! If you have any questions or concerns please contact us here at Companion Animal Hospital at (902) 434-3111 or after hours contact Metro Animal Emergency Clinic at (902) 468-0674.

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How to make medication request hassle-free!

Getting your requests to your veterinarian can be quite a process, especially when you are uncertain about the necessary information we need to fulfill the request. Let’s take this opportunity to review the information required and help you understand why it's helpful in ensuring a smooth and hassle-free experience. What do I need to know before I make a prescription request? There are 5 important pieces of information you'll need to have ready to relay to your veterinary team when requesting a prescription. Medication name Medication concentration Medication dose Medication instructions Quantity you need Let me explain what each one is and why we need it. This information can all be found on your pet's medication label.  Medication Name – This is simple enough; it is the name of your medication, and yes, it is very important. If you call and say you want to refill Fluffy’s eye medication, this won’t help us if they are on 3 different eye medications. Knowing the name of your pet’s medication can be the difference between the correct refill and the wrong refill. Medication Concentration – All medications come in many concentrations, and we want to ensure that your pet gets the correct one to avoid the risk of over- or under-dosing. The concentration is either written as milligrams, mg/mL or a percentage. Pills and tablets can be things like 2.5mg, 10mg, etc. Liquids will be in forms such as 20mg per ml, 200mg/ml, etc., and other medications, such as eye ointments, may say something like 2%. Medication Dose – The dose indicates how much of the medication your pet should be given and how often—for example, 1 tablet every 12 hours or a 1/4″ strip 3 times a day. Medication Instructions – We don't need the exact wording of your label, but we need to know how you are currently giving the medication. This may sound something like I give 1 pill in the morning and 2 pills in the evening or I give 3 units every 12 hours, etc. If what you are giving is different from what is on your medication label, then tell us what you are currently giving and why. It is not recommended to change medication instructions without speaking to your veterinarian. Quantity You Need – To ensure you have the supply you need and avoid multiple trips, please be sure to know what amount(s) of your pet's medication(s) you need. This may be given as a number amount, such as 30 pills or the length of time the medication needs to last,  such as 30 days worth. If you tell us 1 bottle, it doesn't necessarily help us as many medications come in multiple-sized bottles. TIP: Create a folder in your phone’s photo album called Medications, take pictures of your pet’s medication labels, and place them in there for quick access!   Keep in mind that your veterinarian pharmacy, like all other pharmacies, will need time to fill your medication. We kindly ask that you give us 24-48 hours' notice for filling medications as our veterinary staff are very busy and may not always have time to fill medications same-day. TIP: If you are like me and have trouble remembering to get medications refilled on time until you use the last one, there's an APP for that!   If it's a regular medication - there is an app called medisafe that lets you track medications and can be used for pet medications as well. You can set custom notifications to remind you when to refill your medication, such as when you have 5 pills left. If the medication is your pet’s flea and tick medication, check out the app "Flea & Tick"  (iPhone) (Android). This app allows you to track when you last gave your pet their last dose and upload a photo of your medication so you always have what it is at your fingertips. Lastly, look for things your clinic may have, such as QR codes on your medication bottles to help remind you to refill when you run low or website pages like ours (Pharmacy Requests) to make it easier for you to request your medication. Stayed tuned for Part 2.   Written by: Ashely G, VT

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