Holiday Pet Care Tips

Here are some tips for caring for pets during the holiday season.

The New Pet

Holidays may not be the best time to introduce a new pet to the household. All the excitement, noise and deviation from the normal household routine could make it difficult for a new pet—and any existing pets—to make the adjustment to a new home.

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Pets as Gifts

Consider seriously the choice to give a pet as a gift. One of the main reasons animals are abandoned or taken to shelters is because they are unwanted. Don't contribute to this situation by giving a pet to someone who may not want it or be able to care for it. If you do choose to give a pet as a gift, allow the recipient(s) to select the pet so that they can find one that is right for them.

Food, Alcohol, Chocolate & Treats

Candy

Keep holiday treats and candies out of your pet's reach as they can make your pet quite sick. Candy wrappers can cause digestive upset if eaten.

Fruitcake

Holiday fruitcake with ingredients such as grapes, raisins, currants and alcohol should be kept away from pets.

Alcohol

Because alcohol is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, it affects pets quickly. Ingestion of alcohol can cause dangerous drops in blood sugar, blood pressure and body temperature. Intoxicated animals can experience seizures and respiratory failure.

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Chocolate

Chocolate, particularly unsweetened, dark, bittersweet and baking chocolate, can be toxic to pets, especially dogs, who are more prone to eat it. If your dog eats chocolate, call your veterinarian or an animal poison control center, as immediate treatment may be needed. Symptoms of toxicity include excitement, nervousness, trembling, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst or urination, muscle spasms and seizures.

Xylitol

Keep gum, candy or breath fresheners containing the sweetener xylitol away from your dog. When a dog eats even a small amount of xylitol, it causes a surge of insulin, and the animal's blood sugar may drop quickly and dangerously. Cases of liver damage have also been associated with ingestion of xylitol. If your dog ingest xylitol, contact your veterinarian or an animal poison control center immediately.

Other foods

Potentially harmful foods include: coffee grounds, tea, alcohol, hops, salt, onions and onion powder, grapes and raisins, avocado, garlic, and macadamia nuts.

Leftovers

Don't feed your pet holiday turkey or chicken, as the small bones or fragments can lodge in the throat, stomach, or intestinal tract. Fatty leftovers such as turkey skin can trigger inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), a life threatening disease. At the very least, too much human food may give your pet an upset stomach, so it's best avoided.

Guests & Stress

Pets can become overexcited, confused or frightened by holiday guests. Keep pets in a quiet part of the house. When guests are over, watch for open doors and make sure your pets have ID tags and/or microchips in case they do get out. Remind your guests that your normally friendly pet may want to be left alone.

The holidays can be a stressful time for everyone, even your pets. Even though your routine might change, try to keep your pets on their normal routine of feeding and exercise.

Christmas Tree

Make sure your tree is well secured. Avoid adding preservatives, aspirin or sugar to your tree's water, or keep the water covered to keep your pet from drinking it. Tidy up around your tree and wreaths as sharp needles can puncture your pet's internal organs if ingested.

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Holiday Decorations

 

Holiday decorations such as breakable ornaments and dreidels should be kept out of reach of pets, as should tinsel, string, and ribbon. If your pet ingests any of these items, it could experience serious internal injuries, or worse.

Light strands, loose wires and electrical cords can be a serious hazard to your pet, especially puppies, who may chew them. They may get deep tissue burns in the mouth and throat, as well as risk fatal electrocution.

Snow globes may contain antifreeze (ethylene glycol). As little as one teaspoon of antifreeze when ingested by a cat or a tablespoon or two for a dog (depending on their size), can be fatal. Signs of early poisoning include acting drunk or uncoordinated, excessive thirst, and lethargy.

The ingredients in liquid potpourri can cause burns to a pet's skin, eyes, or digestive tract.

Never leave holiday or Hanukkah candles unattended, especially around puppies and kittens.

Plants

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Holly

The spiny and leathery leaves of Christmas or English holly can result in significant damage to the stomach and intestines of dogs and cats. The holly’s berries have mildly toxic properties, but are usually tolerated by most pets.

Mistletoe & Poinsettia

While not toxic, both American mistletoe leaves/berries and poinsettia plants can cause gastrointestinal upset if eaten. If you have a pet who likes to chew foliage, you may want to keep these out of reach.

Other plants

You may want to avoid having these poisonous plants in your home.

Published: November 16, 2009;    Updated: November 21, 2013

Filed Under: Safety, Seasonal Issues, Cats, Dogs

Author: Oregon Veterinary Medical Association

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