Tips for a Safe Holiday with Your Furry Family Member by Dr. Jessica Lannes

The holidays are an exciting and fun time for the entire family. However, it is important to identify and prepare for certain household hazards and holiday traditions that can endanger our canine and feline companions this time of year. By making everyone at home aware of these important considerations, you may be able to prevent some potentially serious situations from arising and putting a damper on that holiday cheer!

DECK THE HALLS – DECORATION HAZARDS We all love to celebrate holiday times with plentiful decorations. It is important that these decorations do not pose a threat to our four legged family members. Make sure that lights and extension cords are secured and/or hidden to deter chewing or entanglement. Pets can be injured if they become caught in them or shocked if they chew or bite on them. Candles and potpourri can also be enticing for pets. However this can be harmful to them if eaten or swallowed. They can even pose a fire hazard if they are left unattended and knocked over. Some fumes can be harmful to birds also. Special precautions need to be taken with Christmas trees. It is important to make sure that the tree is secure, in case your pet decides to attempt climbing the new addition to the living room, particularly feline companions. Put glass and breakable ornaments up high and out of reach to reduce the risk of them being broken and ingested. Tinsel, ribbon and garland need to be used carefully as they can potentially cause life threatening gastrointestinal problems and obstructions if they are eaten. Clean the fallen pine needles often, as these can be toxic if ingested as well. Make sure your pet has fresh water available at all times, and limited access to the tree stand, as some preservatives can be toxic and stagnant water can harbor harmful bacteria that can result in vomiting and diarrhea if ingested. Common houseplants such as poinsettias, mistletoe (especially the berries), and ivy can be toxic to pets as well. Visit our website for more information on toxic and non-toxic houseplants.

CHESTNUTS ROASTING ON AN OPEN FIRE – DIETARY HAZARDS We all know how persuasive puppy dog eyes and persistent purring can be. But think twice before indulging your pet in the Halloween stash, the holiday turkey, or Christmas stuffing. Table food, particularly rich or fatty foods (for example turkey skin and gravy), can cause pancreatitis. The pancreas releases enzymes that break down fat and when it is over stimulated with a fatty meal this can result in gastrointestinal problems, pain, liver failure and even death. Bones, especially chicken bones, can cause tears in the intestinal tract or obstructions that may require surgical intervention. Certain foods are toxic to pets. For example onions can cause anemia, grapes and raisins can cause kidney problems, and chocolate, especially dark or baking chocolate, can result in nervous system abnormalities, heart muscle damage, and urinary problems. These are hazards all year round, but during the holidays we often have family members visiting that may not be aware of these things. To reduce the risk to your pet, feed your pet prior to company coming over, so they are not hungry and less likely to beg and steal food items. Make sure that left over food and garbage is stored and disposed of appropriately. Make sure that you inform your guests of the hazards to your pet and ask them not to feed them inappropriately. Keep healthy and pet appropriate snacks and treats handy for yourself and guest to indulge them in if they must. Speak to your veterinarian about what type of treat is most appropriate for your pet’s age and health status.

SLEIGH BELLS JINGLING - SAFETY AND STRESS During the holiday season there are many stressors that can affect the well being of your pet. From Halloween trick or treat visitors, to the fireworks bringing in the New Year, there are many opportunities for disruptions in your pet’s normal routine. This can result in undesired behavioral issues or physical changes in your pet’s medical status. Halloween, in particular, can be a time of stress for your pet with many unknown and sometimes scary visitors. Take time to desensitize your pet to the doorbell (ask us for tips on how to accomplish this) or create a quiet space away from the hustle and bustle of the open and closing door or busy party or family gathering. Make sure that your pet is wearing his or her collar and tags, in case they do get outside, or better yet, speak to your veterinarian about a microchip (permanent identification). If you have a black cat at home, it is important to keep them indoors during this holiday, as some people may try to harm or scare them. Costumes are tons of fun (join us for our Halloween Bash) but make sure that they are safely fitted and that your pet is supervised at all times while wearing one to prevent injury. Fireworks are another challenge for many pets. If you know that your pet has anxiety to the sounds of fireworks, try not to leave them at home alone during holiday celebrations and make sure they are in a secure and safe environment. In extreme cases it may be beneficial to discuss with your veterinarian behavior modification techniques and potential medications that can reduce the anxiety your pet experiences during this time. Just remember to give your pet a little extra TLC too during this season. But make sure that you do this in a happy and healthy way. Take them for an extra walk, indulge with healthy snacks, or get them a new toy, bed, collar or gift. The human animal bond is a gift that keeps on giving all year long and year after year!

Happy Holidays and Enjoy!