‘tis the season for festive decorations and celebrations, however, many of our dearest and tasty traditions can be harmful to our house pets!
“The main cause of veterinary visits during the holiday season is the fat or drippings from turkey,” says Dr. Joe Hendricks, of Briarwood Veterinary Hospital in Grand Blanc. “People food, such as table scraps, are not a good idea for pets because they can cause gastrointestinal upset, especially in dogs,” he says, suggesting it’s best to avoid them all together and not just during the holidays. Besides risking your pet’s health, you might want to curb their begging behavior too!
A veterinarian for 35 years, Dr. Joe, as he’s frequently called, cautions pet owners to be particularly careful with chocolate because it is toxic to dogs and cats, “It contains a caffeine-like stimulant called theobromine which can create neurological issues in animals.”
Holiday gatherings pose risks to our pets’ gastrointestinal (GI) systems with several additional common treats. “Dogs love to eat nuts, but nuts are really hard on their GI system,” informs Dr. Hendricks, “and if your dog or cat overindulges on candy, this often results in diarrhea. Keep nuts and candies in a closed cupboard, rather than an accessible dish where it would be very tempting to snack when no-one is looking!” A pet owner himself, Dr. Hendricks adds that people usually don’t know that grapes and raisins are also toxic to animals.
Two common Christmas plants are poisonous: pretty poinsettias can cause gastritis (inflammation of stomach lining) as well as irritation in your pet’s mouth. “Mistletoe is even more poisonous,” Dr. Hendricks explains. While on the subject of plants, he shares that lilies (such as those common at Easter time) create kidney problems in cats and can be deadly to them.
Decoration dos and don’ts
Avoid wrapping presents with ribbons because cats will want to eat them. Ditto for shiny tinsel on trees. “If you have a cat, do not use tinsel! When a cat swallows the long thin strands of plastic tinsel, it gets stuck in their intestines. Then it’s deadly and abdominal surgery is expensive,” states Dr. Hendricks. “On a positive note, cats don’t seem to be attracted to candles.”
Dogs aren’t as interested in ribbons and tinsel, but your canines may want to play with, or chew on, ornaments hanging on the bottom branches of a Christmas tree which they can easily reach. Curious cats too. Be careful to place chewable or breakable ornaments higher up on the tree.
Cold weather caution for dog owners
As Thanksgiving and Christmas approach, winter arrives, sometimes when we least expect it! Most people know not to leave pets in their vehicles on a hot summer day, but may be less inclined to consider the danger of cold weather. “Remember not to leave dogs in your car when the temperature gets below 20 and certainly below 10 degrees (Fahrenheit),” warns Dr. Hendricks. “Be aware that, if you’re going into a store, you might be in there longer than you planned. It could really cool down fast and dogs may suffer frostbite on their ears.”