18By Capt. Ashley Kotran | Veterinary Corps Officer
The holiday season is here and with that comes an increased risk of animals getting into trouble. Here are a few tips to help prevent an unhappy and expensive vet visit this holiday season.
Human food: Many food items and ingredients that are okay for people to eat can be toxic to the family pet. Chocolate, grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, sweets including artificial sweeteners, and baked goods contain toxic substances that can harm a pet causing them to vomit or have diarrhea. Table scraps and fatty meats contain too much fat and can cause inflammation of the pancreas, a very painful disease.
Holiday décor: It is fun to be festive and decorate for the holidays, but be mindful of the four-legged friends. Ornaments, tinsel and other holiday decorations can be hazardous to pets if ingested and could cause intestinal blockage; which requires a surgical emergency. Glass or breakable ornaments can also cause injuries; keep decorations out of reach of pets. Electric lights can cause serious burns if chewed and lit candles should never be left burning with a pet alone in the room. Cats are particularly fond of climbing beautifully lit Christmas trees, but they can inhale pine needles, causing respiratory issues. Christmas tree preservatives used today generally contain small amounts of fertilizer and dextrose. Ingestion of these preservatives can result in mild vomiting and diarrhea, according to ASPCApro.org. Additionally, ensure pets do not drink the water meant for Christmas trees.
Toxic holiday plants:
1. True and day lilies: Extremely toxic to cats; just a few licks can cause kidney failure
2. Poinsettias: If eaten, can be mildly toxic to pets causing gastrointestinal upset
3. Mistletoe: Toxic to both dogs and cats; can cause vomiting, diarrhea and low blood pressure
4. Holly: Both the leaves and berries are mildly toxic; may cause vomiting, diarrhea or depression
When hosting holiday parties, it is important to consider the noise and excitement. Pets that are not normally shy, may experience some anxiety or stress with a large gathering. It is important to ensure pets have a room or comfortable safe place to be alone if they wish. Food on tables and countertops should be cleared and out of reach of pets. Trash should also be covered and kept away from animals.
“If traveling with a pet, whether it’s interstate or overseas, contact a local veterinarian to obtain a health certificate and understand the specific travel regulations,” according to U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
When traveling by car, dogs and cats will still need a health certificate. It is important to look up the different state specific requirements and the timeframes needed for a health certificate; a local veterinarian can help guide pet owners through these requirements. Be sure to bring medical records, medications, and identification information in case your pet is lost.
If a pet is traveling in a car, ensure it is properly and securely restrained, away from any airbags and not in the bed of a truck. If a pet is traveling by air, ensure all airline requirements are checked and discuss with a veterinarian whether your pet is healthy enough to travel on an airplane.
For the furry family members that cannot travel and need to be boarded, ensure they are up-to-date on vaccinations, especially the canine flu, Bordetella, and other core vaccinations and contagious diseases. Contact the kennel or boarding facility in advance for their specific requirements.
“Quick action can save lives. If you believe your pet has been poisoned or eaten something it shouldn’t have, call your veterinarian or local veterinary emergency clinic immediately. You may also want to call the ASPCA poison control hotline: 888-426-4435. Signs of pet distress include: sudden changes in behavior, depression, pain, vomiting or diarrhea,” according to https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/holidays.aspx.