by Kristin Raboin, DVM
VRRH Emergency Services Veterinarian
We all love our pets and want to include them in holiday festivities. Including them in gatherings and family traditions can be a great bonding experience and a lot of fun. Here are some tips to help keep them safe:
Game Day BBQ’s
Football is a popular pastime here in the South. Our pets frequently don sports jerseys and may even attend tailgating parties. To help keep your pet safe, make sure she is always attended and on a leash. She should have access to shade and fresh water, especially if outdoors. Tailgating food is often rich and fatty, and should not be given to dogs. Doing so could cause gastroenteritis and pancreatitis. Gastroenteritis is an inflamed stomach and intestines, and can lead to discomfort, vomiting, and diarrhea. Pancreatitis is an overactive pancreas and can be fatal. Pets with pancreatitis are often painful in their belly and are vomiting. Your pets should also not be given alcohol or beer of any kind. Cigarette and cigar butts should be thrown away out of your pet’s reach.
Unfortunately, there are people who still perform cruel acts to animals. Statistics show that Halloween is a common time for this to take place. Keeping animals indoors ensures their safety. Also, it is important to keep chocolate and other candy out of your pet’s reach. Not only is chocolate toxic to dogs, but it can also cause pancreatitis. Chocolate toxicity can manifest as vomiting and diarrhea, hyperactivity, elevated heart rate or even seizures and death in extreme cases. Candies and sugar-free gums containing xylitol cause a rapid drop in blood sugar and can also be fatal if ingested. Small costume accessory’s/parts should be kept away from pets. If you chose to walk your dog while trick-or-treating, be sure she is on a leash and that her costume is not restrictive or uncomfortable. You can share your roasted pumpkin seeds or cooked pumpkin (in small amounts) with your pets!
We all know how much dogs love bones, but the truth is that bones from meat are not a good idea. Poultry bones especially can splinter and break, causing pointy edges that can puncture the stomach. Bones can also cause an obstruction and gastroenteritis. Other typical Thanksgiving foods tend to be basted in butter, oils, and salts, and can lead to pancreatitis and gastroenteritis. A small amount of turkey or broth is acceptable, but other foods should be avoided. Anything with onions or garlic can be toxic to dogs. Table food in general can lead to weight gain and a myriad of other issues like diabetes and joint problems. Know that your dog and cat are thankful for you, even if they don’t get extra treats!
Christmas and Hanukkah
It’s nice to give our pets a special toy or snack for the holiday, but be sure that all gift wrapping is put out of reach. Tree ornaments should also be placed out of reach, or watched if your cat climbs the tree. If ingested, ornaments, garland, ribbons, and tree “icicles” can cause a blockage that may lead to abdominal surgery. Inappetence, vomiting, and lethargy or restlessness are some signs associated with intestinal blockage. Christmas tree water is NOT an acceptable water source as it can contain bacteria, fertilizers, and chemicals. Also, if chewed or swallowed, corrosive material in batteries can lead to painful ulceration of the mouth and gastrointestinal tract.
Again, table food and alcohol should not be given to animals. If you are celebrating outdoors, be sure your pet is on leash. Understand that fireworks may visibly upset your pet, and may cause her to run off if outside.
Pets are affected by the weather too! Be sure your outdoor pets have a warm, dry bed during the colder months. Water should be checked daily; frozen water bowls do not allow the pet to drink! Older pets may have stiffer joints as the weather cools. Be mindful of seasonal decorations, such as lights, candles, and potpourri, as chewing or swallowing these items can cause problems. Some pets may also be affected or stressed by you leaving town, people and other pets visiting your house, and a general disruption of their routine. Be sure you make boarding arrangements early. If you notice a change in your pet’s behavior, be sure to contact your primary veterinarian.
We hope these tips will help you enjoy a safe holiday season with your pets!