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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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Let’s get Active!

I am sure you all know that it's important to make sure our furry friends stay active. However, once winter time hits well that is simply more difficult with the snow and storms that come around. So then how do we keep our friends active in winter as we would in spring/summer? Why is physical activity & mental stimulation so important for animals? Well simply put, as humans do, if they are stuck inside, they will get bored which then can make them become destructive and have other negative behaviors. Cats Cats may not always be outside walking like dogs, but you may still notice with the change in weather maybe they are slowing down and not exercising like they should? Here are some helpful ways to encourage them to exercise. Set up a game of hide and seek and hide toys or treats for them to find. Bring in something new from outside like a stick to mentally stimulate them and work out their brain. The new smells and textures can be very enriching for them. Winter is the perfect time for box forts for our kitty friends. If you have spare time made them a kitty castle or kitty boat whatever your imagination can think of! And of course, everyone likes a little stimulation from Tv. Put on something on the tv or a tablet and let them watch it but be careful they do not knock over your TV. Dogs Our dog friends love to be outside! This is great when the weather is cooperating but on those days that it just makes no sense to go outside or is unsafe to so you can try these helpful exercising tips. Let them walk/run on a treadmill. Now as great as this is for exercise you also need to be careful. Desensitize them to the treadmill first, and start slowly. It can be dangerous if not done properly. If your furry friend likes car rides, go on a trip together even just a short one. Let them enjoy the different sights and smells. Winter is perfect time to learn new tricks! This is the time to teach them that special trick you have wanted to for a while. Set up an obstacle course in your house for them to try and get through. Written by: Ashley G, VT    

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Last updated: June 9, 2022.

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