The 12 Days of Holiday Pet Emergencies
On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me—a pet emergency?
The holiday season is full of opportunities for your true love (i.e., your pet) to land herself in the emergency room. Ensure your pet stays away from these potential holiday hazards, so an emergency doesn’t ruin your holidays.
Day 1: Chocolate
Chocolate is one of the most common toxins pets are exposed to during the holidays. Dark chocolate, or baking chocolate, has the highest concentration of theobromine and caffeine, and ingestion of small amounts of these toxins can cause illness. Milk chocolate contains a lower toxin concentration, but can still cause toxicity if your pet eats enough. If your pet gets into any type of chocolate, consult your family veterinarian immediately.
Day 2: Raw yeast dough
If your pet eats raw dough that contains yeast, the yeast can rise to several times its original size in her warm stomach. If she does not vomit, the dough can cause a stomach or intestinal blockage. The yeast can also ferment sugars in the dough and produce alcohols that can cause alcohol toxicity.
Day 3: Fatty foods
Although fatty foods, such as ham scraps or turkey skin, are not toxic, they can still make your pet seriously ill. A high-fat meal can inflame the pancreas and cause severe vomiting, abdominal pain, and dehydration. Warn guests to ignore your pooch’s puppy dog eyes, and stick to only pet-safe treats. After holiday meals, clean up all leftovers immediately and dispose of food scraps in a pet-proof trash can.
Day 4: Toxic medications
According to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, human medications are the most common cause of pet toxicities. Holiday houseguests, especially elderly people or those without pets, may not take care to keep medications safely stored away. Ask your guests to store all medications, prescription and over-the-counter, in sealed bottles out of your pet’s reach.
Day 5: Toxic plants
Many plants included in festive holiday arrangements can be poisonous to your pet if she munches on the leaves, flowers, or berries. Holly, mistletoe, and lilies can be highly toxic to pets, and are unsafe choices if your pet is known for eating plants. Artificial greenery is a safer decorating choice for your furry friend.
Day 6: Electric cords
Keep all electric cords tucked out of sight so your curious pet cannot chew them. Puppies and kittens are most likely to teeth on the rubber-coated cords, and can be severely burned or electrocuted if they access the wires inside.
Day 7: Christmas trees
Your pet may think your Christmas tree is a fun jungle gym you erected for her benefit. Cats notoriously try to climb the trunk or branches, and rough-housing dogs may stumble into the tree, or knock it over. If your tree falls on your pet, she could be severely injured. Secure your tree so it doesn’t topple over and injure your pet or a family member.
Day 8: Christmas tree water
The water in your live Christmas tree stand may contain fertilizers from the tree, added chemicals to keep your tree green and fresh-looking, or dangerous bacterial growth. If your thirsty pet drinks tainted water, she may become seriously ill. Keep your tree stand covered and consider placing repellants, such as citrus scents, nearby to deter your pet.
Day 9: Breakable decorations
Decorations hanging from lower branches can easily be batted off by a frisky cat or a dog’s wagging tail. If a glass ornament shatters, your pet can cut her feet, so place breakable ornaments on higher branches where your pet cannot reach them.
Day 10: Tinsel
Cats seem to find glittery tinsel irresistible, and may try to eat the strands. Once inside a pet’s intestines, tinsel can bunch up, and may wear a hole in the intestinal wall, causing contamination to leak into the abdominal cavity. Tinsel has become less popular, but if you’re going for a nostalgic look, consider skipping this dangerous decoration.
Day 11: Candles
A flickering candle can add a warm, cozy feel to your home, but a rambunctious pet who knocks it over could be seriously burned, or start a fire. Keep candles with flames where they cannot be tipped over, or opt for battery-operated flameless candles. Also take care with fireplaces—since their open flame is at ground level, playful pets may end up too close as they rough house.
Day 12: Foreign Bodies
Some pets are like vacuum cleaners, and will eat anything that hits the ground. Take care on Christmas morning, when wrapping paper, ribbons, and small toy parts often litter the floor. Keep your pet in a separate room or her crate during your family gift exchange, and promptly clean up all refuse.
We hope your family enjoys a safe, emergency-free holiday, but if your pet does get into trouble, contact your family veterinarian immediately. If your veterinarian determines that an advanced surgical procedure is the best treatment, contact us.