Pet Holiday Hazards

The holiday season is a busy time of year, and in the veterinary world, there’s usually an uptick in cases.

Here are a few of the common hazards and situations to consider to keep your pets safe during this season!

Foods:
Usually the biggest risk for food toxicity is due to something we call “Super Bowl Syndrome.” When many people gather together, there’s often a lot of food around, and it is much easier for pets to get into things they shouldn’t, or be offered “just a little bit” from everyone.

There are some big toxins that really shouldn’t even be out when there’s a dog free-roaming in the house. Chocolate, raisins/grapes (like in fruitcake), fatty foods (gravy, turkey, some desserts), artificial sweeteners like xylitol (often in candy and some baked goods), and uncooked bread dough are all of high concern. The safest choice is to have these items put away unless your dog is under direct oversight!

Exposure to any of the above should warrant a call to your vet, or even consider contacting Animal Poison Control (888-426-4435).

Physical hazards:
Winter weather and holiday decorations can both bring dogs and cats in direct contact with some seasonally-specific hazards.

Decorations, especially tinsel, are tempting to cats and some dogs, and ingestion can lead to emergency surgery. Either avoid using these types of decorations, or keep them well away from any area a pet can reach.

Christmas trees with low-hanging electrical wires or exposed water pots can be a source of electrical burns or GI upset as well.

While they look and smell nice, lighted candles are dangerous both for pets and people, and should never be left lit while unattended, especially with pets around!

Outside, salt and ice melt can damage sensitive dog paws and also be toxic if ingested. Many dogs benefit from wearing a good quality boot or shoe. My favorite for big, active dogs is the TheraPaw – https://www.therapaw.com/thera-paw-boot

Plants:
While most plants will cause mainly GI upset if ingested, there are a few to keep in mind during the holidays.

For cats, lillies are highly toxic and often fatal if ingested, even just some pollen! They are typically common in spring, but can be found in flower arrangements during the holiday season.

Poinsettia, mistletoe, and holly are all possibly problematic if ingested, but usually are more of an irritation than a true toxicity.

The SPCA has a comprehensive list of toxic and non-toxic plants many owners find helpful: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants

Stress/Anxiety:
Changes in routine, visitors to the home, and large gatherings can all be very stressful for pets.

While some dogs and cats can enjoy socially interacting, many really like to stick with a few familiar people they know pretty well. I usually recommend making sure dogs and cats have a safe and comfortable retreat to get away from a busy party or gathering, and sometimes we’ll use anxiety medications like trazodone or gabapentin to help out with predictable event-based situation stresses like social gatherings.

Bringing dogs and cats along with you when visiting friends and family can sound fun, but also can be quite stressful, and we see a higher number of bite wounds from these types of interactions.

If you need to bring pets together, consider having a back up plan or safe space for each animal to be if things escalate or if any stress occurs.

Author: Dr. Zack Glantz

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