Keep Pets Safe During the Holidays

Working as an emergency vet for over a decade makes you realize that the holidays are a target rich environment for your pet to end up in the emergency room.  The following are a few simple steps you can take to prevent such expensive accidents because no one wants to end up in the emergency room over the holidays!

  • Keep all food and trash away from pets at all times – I can’t tell you how many times a large breed dog (Labs!) end up sneaking the entire turkey off the counter or pulling the carcass out of the trash and it makes them really sick.  The drawback to animals eating people food is that their GI track is not used to it and it will likely cause vomiting and diarrhea.  The large amount of food and/or fat can also start up a bout of pancreatitis which can be deadly.  Bones usually dissolve but occasionally cooked bones can splinter and perforate the digestive track or if they eat a very large amount, become stuck and cause an obstruction.
  • Human food can be toxic to pets – Just because we enjoy holiday food does not mean you should share it with your pet, lots of human foods are toxic to pets. Onions, garlic, chocolate, desserts containing Xylitol, macadamia nuts, grapes, and raisins.
  • Decorations – They look great on the tree but not so much when I’m surgically extracting them from the intestines. Ribbons and tinsel are especially dangerous for cats, the ribbon can get stuck under the tongue and then they swallow the ribbon. As it sits there the intestines try and move the ribbon down the digestive track but it can’t move so it ends up sawing through the intestines instead.  Real mistletoe and holly are very poisonous to cats.  Poinsettias are not as toxic as perceived, they usually just cause mild intestinal upset.
  • Taking pets to relatives houses – Every holiday without exception I’m usually trying to piece back together a little dog that visited a relative’s house and tried to act like he was boss. The smaller dogs have big attitudes but usually end up getting really hurt because they (or the dog they are visiting) have not been properly socialized.  Sadly many dogs have been killed this way and it’s really not the way you plan to spend the holidays.
  • Boarding and Traveling – don’t wait until the last minute to make arrangements for boarding, any good facility should require current vaccines. If you are traveling to a different state, country, or if you are flying you may need a health certificate which also requires current vaccines and a visit to your veterinarian within 10 days of travel.  If traveling in the car make sure to always have updated identification on the pet’s collar and a microchip in case they escape from the car, hotel, or rest area.

Hopefully these tips will save you from a stressful event for you and your pet over the holidays!  However, make sure to have a local vet ER number handy just in case.  If leaving your pet with a sitter, it is also a good idea for you to make payment arrangements in case they have to take your pet into the vet.

Whether you’re entertaining at home, traveling with pets, boarding them, or leaving them home with a sitter, take note of these important safety precautions.

Dec 20, 2013

By Greg McClure


Whether you are leaving your pets at home or traveling with them over the holidays, planning is the key to ensuring their safety, a Purdue University veterinarian says.

“The last thing any pet owner wants on Christmas or New Year’s is to rush their pet to the animal emergency room,” says Lorraine Corriveau, a pet wellness veterinarian at Purdue’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “The truth is that many pets can be injured or poisoned during the holidays unless their owners take proper preventive measures.”

Animals that travel by air are required to have a health certificate from a federally accredited veterinarian within 10 days of the flight. Corriveau says pet owners should bring medical and vaccination records as well as their own pet food. They also should research pet-friendly hotels and parks and try to keep their pets on the same schedule to minimize stress.

Those who will be driving with their pets to a holiday destination should use a carrier or a harness to ensure the pet’s safety as well others’ safety while driving. Some pets may benefit from a mild sedative to help with travel. This should be discussed with your veterinarian to decide what drug is best for your pet. Corriveau recommends that the drug should be tested on the pet in advance to make sure it has the desired effect.

If pet owners decide to board their pets, Corriveau offers the following tips:

> Ask to visit/tour the facility.

> Does your pet have special needs? Can the kennel care for those needs?

> Check to see if there is a veterinarian associated with the kennel.

> Take note of how they handle the animals and the facility’s cleanliness.

> Ask the staff about the services they offer and if there are structured daily activities.

“If your dog hasn’t been at a kennel for a while, and you’re leaving on a long-term vacation, it’s probably best to board your dog for a night or two before you go to get them used to it,” Corriveau says.

Another option is having someone come and pet sit at your residence.

If you decide to do this, Corriveau presents some advice:

> Ask the sitter to come multiple times a day or stay at your home with the pet.

> Get references.

> Search for certified professional pet sitters, or ask your veterinarian if he or she can recommend someone who offers this service.

> Find out if the caretaker is insured.

> Have a contact number for emergencies.

Even when owners don’t travel, holidays can be dangerous for pets. Homes should be pet-proofed when holiday decorations are out.

“Ribbons, shiny tinsel and noise-making ornaments are especially attractive and hazardous to cats,” Corriveau says. “Keep an eye on electrical cords to ensure puppies and kittens don’t chew on them.

“Decorative plants also are a source of danger. Mistletoe and holly can cause vomiting and lilies are often deadly to cats. Poinsettias, despite their reputation, are not deadly and often cause little more than mild stomach upset.”

Food also can be a problem for pets.

“Poultry bones, especially cooked, have potential to both break off and cause a perforation of the digestive tract, or if large amounts are consumed, could cause an obstruction,” Corriveau says.

She says other foods to avoid include grapes and raisins, excessively salty foods, foods flavored with onion or garlic powder, desserts and sweets containing Xylitol, and chocolates.

When pet owners host family and friends for large holiday gatherings, they should take their pets’ anxiety level into account.

“It might be best to keep pets confined if they are overly anxious,” Corriveau says. “Also, monitor people going in and out of the front door. Pets might take advantage and try to escape.”

Corriveau says keeping emergency contact information close is a good idea.

“Keep phone numbers for your veterinarian and the local animal emergency hospital handy,” she says. “A quick call to either of them can give you life-saving advice or even help you avoid a trip to the ER.

M. H. Archer, DVM
Loveland Veterinary House Call


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