As the holiday season gains momentum and you become overwhelmed with planning menus, juggling guests, and creating festive displays, your furry pal’s safety may become lost in the chaos. During the holiday season, your pet faces many potential dangers, especially when you are focused on other things. To help you ensure your four-legged friend safely enjoys the holiday season, our Harbor Pines Veterinary Center team describes the most common hazards, and how to avoid an emergency.
#1: Do not share popular holiday dishes with your pet
Although your furry pal may give you a sorrowful stare as you fill your plate with holiday fare, do not surrender to your guilt. Many holiday specialties can cause your pet serious digestive issues. Do not share the following foods with your pet:
- Turkey and ham — Holiday main dishes can be the most hazardous for pets. Turkey skin, dark meat, and ham have a high fat content, and if your pet eats these, they can develop pancreatitis. The seasonings and spices you add to these meats can be toxic to pets if they ingest them in large amounts. In addition, turkey and ham bones—cooked or not—can splinter or lodge in your pet’s gastrointestinal tract, causing severe illness.
- Garlic, onion, leeks, and chives — Many of us frequently add these Allium plants to our holiday side dishes. Do not feed your pet any foods that include these flavor enhancers because they can destroy your furry pal’s red blood cells, and cause anemia.
- Unbaked yeast dough — Ensure you leave rising yeast dough well out of your pet’s reach—especially not on your kitchen counter. Unbaked yeast dough expands in your pet’s stomach, and can result in a bloated abdomen, gastrointestinal obstruction, and alcohol poisoning.
- Nut mixes — Ensure you place small dishes of mixed nuts and dried fruits—potential choking hazards—out of your pet’s reach. In addition, keep your pet away from those tempting party mixes, because many ingredients are toxic, especially macadamia nuts, raisins, and currants.
- Desserts — While chocolate’s toxicity to pets is well-known, a lesser-known sweet treat is xylitol—a popular sugar substitute. Many sugar-free desserts, candies, and cookies contain xylitol, which can cause your pet to experience a severe blood sugar drop and liver failure.
- Alcohol — As the festive atmosphere rises, ensure your thirsty pet does not imbibe in spilled cocktails or those left unattended for a lengthy time. A small amount of alcohol can poison your pet, leading to a hospital stay.
#2: Keep holiday decor out of your pet’s reach
Many holiday decorations can be dangerous to your pet, and you should keep them out of their reach, or choose pet-friendly alternatives. The most common holiday decoration hazards include:
- Pumpkins, squash, and gourds
- Corncobs and cornstalks
- Burning candles
- Glass figurines and ornaments
- Holiday lights and extension cords
- Christmas tree stand water
- Pine needles
- Toxic plants
Holiday season decoration displays can be stunning, but—to prevent your pet from experiencing gastrointestinal obstructions and toxicity, and starting a house fire—you must ensure they cannot access hazardous items.
#3: Keep guests’ medications and snacks away from your pet
If you are hosting family or friends in your home during the holidays, instruct them to keep their suitcases zipped, and their purses out of your pet’s reach. Better still, advise them to keep their bedroom door closed—after verifying that your pet is not in the room—to prevent your curious pal from sniffing out candy, sugar-free gum, protein bars, and medications in unattended suitcases and purses. Your guests may have brought along items your pet finds interesting, and your furry pal can develop an emergency health issue that is potentially fatal, particularly if they ingest heart or blood pressure medication.
#4: Don’t force your pet to wear an uncomfortable holiday costume
While some pets may love the attention that comes with dressing up, holiday costumes can make many pets uncomfortable—even panicked. If your pet enjoys wearing a costume, check the clothing’s fit before the big day. Ensure the costume does not slip or restrict your pet’s breathing, eyesight, or movement. Eliminate accessories that can be easily chewed off and swallowed, such as button
s, bows, and zippers. Pets who display stress or anxiety signs—such as stiffened body posture, widened eyes, or a hunched back—are likely uncomfortable in a costume, so you should stick to their birthday suit or festive collar.
#5: Shelter your pet from boisterous holiday celebrations
Having several unfamiliar people in your home can unsettle even the most laid-back pet, and—when the noise level rises and open space diminishes—your furry pal can quickly become anxious and afraid. Gift wrappings, ribbons, party poppers, and small party favors pose additional pet hazards.
Protect your pet from the boisterous holiday chaos and overly friendly guests by providing a safe haven. In a quiet room far from the festivities, create your pet’s sanctuary. Post a stay out sign on the door, furnish the room with cozy bedding, and give your pet an engaging toy and a treat puzzle. You can also leave soft music playing or turn on a quiet television show to help drown out the party noise. Calming products, such as pheromone sprays and diffusers, supplements, and body wraps, can also help soothe the anxieties a houseful of guests can cause your pet.
Proper preparation can help keep your furry pal safe from holiday hazards, but occasionally your pet may tangle with a dangerous item or eat a toxic food. If your pet gets in trouble this holiday season, contact our Harbor Pines Veterinary Center team for help.