We’re about to enter the high holiday season. Halloween is behind us, and Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve, and, finally, New Year’s Day are on the horizon. These special days are meant to be spent with family and friends, whether they boast two legs or four, and the celebrations are sure to be full of food and merriment.
The next few months are also full of potential trouble for your pets. When you’re in a rush, you can easily forget that some popular holiday traditions can be dangerous for four-legged family members. So, we’ve made a howl-iday hazards list—and checked it twice—that will help you and all your family members safely slide through the holiday season into the New Year.
Hazard #1: Decking the halls
When picking floral arrangements and other holiday home decor, remember that some traditionally festive foliage may be dangerous to your pets if ingested.
- Poinsettias (mildly toxic) — If ingested, you may see drooling due to the plant’s irritating nature, and gastrointestinal signs, such as vomiting or diarrhea.
- Mistletoe (moderately to severely toxic) — Mild gastrointestinal signs, such as vomiting and diarrhea, may be seen if mistletoe is ingested in small amounts. Pets who ingest large amounts may develop low blood pressure, ataxia (i.e., difficulty walking), and seizures. Death also has been reported, so ensure your bouquets are hung well out of pets’ reach.
- Lilies (severely toxic to cats) — Cats who ingest lilies can develop acute kidney failure, and may become ill from simply grooming pollen from their fur. Because lilies are so toxic, and cats are notorious for nibbling on floral arrangements, ensure your holiday centerpieces do not include lilies.
Hazard #2: Cocktail time
The holidays are one big party, with lots of opportunities for indulging in a cocktail or two. As in humans, alcohol affects pets as a central nervous system depressant. The smaller the size of pet, the higher the risk for alcohol poisoning. Pets may see unattended beverages as an open bar they can’t resist, so keep all alcohol out of reach of curious four-legged friends. Alcohol poisoning signs include stupor, staggering, incoordination, and vomiting.
Hazard #3: Holiday meals
Feeding pets table scraps after dinner should always be discouraged, and the same rules apply for holiday meals. Traditionally, we put our diets on hold for the holidays and indulge in rich foods like onion-laden latkes, stuffing, buttery veggies, and meat. Chocolate gold coins are also common at this time of year. All these treats are on the naughty list, because they can result in gastroenteritis or potentially life-threatening pancreatitis in your pets.
Hazard #4: Holiday traditions
Whether you have a Christmas tree, menorah, or Kinara, be aware that many holiday traditions can be dangerous for pets.
- Christmas trees — Cats are notoriously curious, and many a Christmas tree has been knocked over during their exploration. Also, ingestion of tree needles may cause vomiting.
- Tinsel — Think twice before you wax nostalgic and bring out tree tinsel, which is long and shiny and incredibly inviting to cats. Once ingested, tinsel can lead to an intestinal obstruction called linear foreign body.
- Electric decorations — Pay particular attention to Christmas lights, train villages, and electric menorahs that typically mean extra extension cords. Curious pets may chew on the cords, and in worst-case scenarios, may be burned, develop respiratory issues, or be electrocuted, so hide these temptations with plastic wire covers.
Hazard #5: Travel—know your “petiquette”
With the holidays comes travel, and if your pets are your family, you wouldn’t think of celebrating without them. If you plan to travel with pets, keep these “petiquette” rules in mind:
- Check with your host — First, ask your hosts if your pet is welcome. They may be allergic to pets, or have pets of their own, and adding an unknown pet could upset the balance. Do not put yourself in the awkward situation of discovering on arrival that your pet is not welcome.
- Check your manners — Ensure your pet is polite at your host’s house. Bring a crate, exercise pen, or baby gate to keep her out of trouble and, if necessary, keep her tethered with a long leash so she’s always in sight.
- Check the children — Always supervise your pet when she is around children to ensure your host’s family stays safe, and your family stays welcome. A rambunctious child can provoke a frightened pet to bite or scratch in only a second.
If you do need to leave your pet at home, make arrangements now, because boarding facilities and pet sitters book up early during the holidays.
While the list of cautions is lengthy, staying smart about your celebrations will help keep the season merry and bright for the whole family. If you’ll be boarding your pet this winter, call us to ensure that she is up-to-date on her vaccines. If you’re traveling with your pet, we can provide copies of her records in case of emergencies on the road. Last but not least, if your pet suffers from travel anxiety, let us know, and we can help with short-term treatments.