Driving up interstate 65 from Indianapolis to Chicago, I saw the first appreciable snow of the 2017 season. It really didn't amount to much, but it certainly did two things for me. One, seeing snow ALWAYS helps me find the holiday spirit and two, it reminds me that we should probably chat about pet safety as we decorate our homes, invite friends and relatives inside and plan our holiday feasts.
There's a cute meme floating around on Facebook that shows a veterinarian in surgery and that veterinarian saying something to the effect of "While everyone else is out shopping on Black Friday, we are here counting the number of pancreatitis cases and foreign body obstructions!" Sadly, this humorous meme is all TOO true at many veterinary practices at this time of year. While most people are spending their time thinking about or purchasing gifts for their loved ones, veterinary staff spends this time of year prepping for surgeries to remove bones, placing IV catheters in patients who had too much ham during the family dinner or discussing the best means of controlling the vomiting and/or diarrhea that occurs after the family pet gets into the kitchen garbage after the holiday meal.
In our family of hospitals, our three emergency hospitals saw 3 cases of obstruction after Thanksgiving of 2017 along with 15 confirmed pancreatitis cases and an uncountable number of patients receiving metronidazole or Cerenia to help control diarrhea or vomiting.
So, bottom line...make sure EVERYONE coming over understands the rules for your pet when it comes to dinner time. Avoid the fatty foods (like ham, the turkey skin, etc), onions, garlic, macadamia nuts, grapes and raisins, foods with excessive salt, chocolates or sweets made with Xylitol(R). It should go with out saying that NO PET needs alcohol...ever!
Keep the kitchen trash secure behind a closed door or with a locking lid. Don't let your guests give in to your pet's "puppy dog" eyes and give him or her something that might send you to the animal ER! As mentioned above, bones are a significant risk for causing a foreign body obstruction, abdominal perforation or even fracturing teeth in our pets!
The holiday decor has the potential for risk as well. First, let's put a long standing myth to rest. Poinsettia plants can certainly cause mild vomiting or diarrhea, but they are NOT deadly to the majority of pets. Likewise, much has been made of mistletoe and holly. The European strain of mistletoe definitely has the potential for causing cardiac and neurologic issues, but that strain is rare here in the U.S. Again, gastro-intestinal (GI) issues are the most common concern. Cat owners, PAY ATTENTION...although it's not really a common winter holiday decoration, some bouquets will have Lilies incorporated in them and many types of lilies are DEADLY to your cats. A single leaf, or even some pollen from the plant is enough to put a cat in kidney failure! Pet Poison Helpline has an extensive list of plants that are problematic for our four legged friends.
Around the house, it seems that some pets are just determined to make a mess of the holiday decorations. Check out this collection of pictures of the unique ways people have created to keep their Christmas trees and other ornaments safe from pets! (Sorry in advance for some of the swear words these folks used!) But seriously, glass ornaments are fun to knock around and are easily broken, tinsel, garland and ribbons are irresistible to our feline friends and sometimes the tree looks just like a big stick!, right?? While all of these have potential for problems, cats who swallow tinsel or garland might end up with a "linear foreign body" and that means surgery for your furry friend!
Honestly, most people (and animals) will weather this holiday season with no problems at all! We will see lots of pictures of pets with new sweaters, new toys or even a few of pets unwrapping their gifts. Just follow a few commonsense guidelines, like watching what treats are being given to your pets or what plants are around the house and you will likely be just fine. It's not a bad idea, however, to keep the telephone number of your local animal emergency hospital handy...rest assured that there will be dedicated veterinarians, resolute veterinary technicians and compassionate veterinary assistants ready to help you if you find yourself facing a holiday emergency!
From all of us at PetPalsTV...have a WONDERFUL HOLIDAY SEASON and a "PAWSOME" NEW YEAR!