We are beginning a new year, and with that a whole round of holidays and hopefully fun times with our pets. There are basic precautions that should be taken during holidays year round to keep our pets safe while we have fun. I will cover basic American and Christian holidays because those are the ones that I am most familiar with, but there are features of each of these holidays that can be applied universally and all our pets can benefit regardless of country or religion.
Nowadays most people know that chocolate is poisonous to dogs. While cats are less likely to eat chocolate, it is also toxic to them. Neither dogs nor cats should eat strings, ribbons, or plastic of any sort because they can all cause intestinal blockage or damage that could potentially lead to emergency surgery. Many of the decorations used on homemade Valentine’s cards contain ribbons and other hazardous items that could be dangerous to your pet. My cats have even been known to eat spaghetti straps from lingerie, so even keep those kinds of gifts out of reach of your pets.
Similar to Valentines Day, chocolate candies and plastic toys are common Easter gifts, but probably the biggest hazard of all on Easter is the “grass” used to stuff Easter baskets. In case you’re not familiar with Easter grass, the most common form is made of long thin strips of plastic stuffed to overflowing in a basket, with toys and candy on top. The danger is that your pet might start to eat the grass and if they do, there’s a possibility that the grass can cut their intestines or create an intestinal blockage, both requiring emergency surgery.
The Fourth of July (or any holiday where fireworks are used), can so terrify pets that many run away from home and end up in shelters. If the owners don’t claim them within a few days the shelters will begin looking for new homes for them, or possibly euthanize them if there are no other options. For a few months after 7/14/2013, the local human society was still trying to find homes for lost dogs and cats that ended up in their shelter after the holiday. Most of these pets were lucky in that the shelter they found was one that does not euthanize, but the shelter was so overcrowded after the holiday that they had to offer discount adoptions to find new homes for all of the pets that ended up there.
Not only can pets potentially be poisoned by Halloween candy, but they can be eat plastic candy wrappers and bags, which could potentially cause intestinal blockages or suffocation. Another big problem with Halloween is that pets can be traumatized by costumes the costumes that their owners and visitors might wear. I personally think that if you wear a costume and don’t go out of your way to scare your pet, everything should be OK, but just be sensitive to your pets’ fears. After all, you probably wouldn’t go out of your way to traumatize a small child, and most experts equate animals’ cognitive levels to those of small children.
Fortunately Thanksgiving is one holiday when there is less danger for our pets. Be aware that garlic and onions (and many other foods that we eat every day) can be poisonous to our pets, so if you feed them treats, give them pure meat. Be sure to never give them turkey, chicken, or any other bird bones, as they can break and you pet can choke on them or worse.
Take, for example, the Christmas tree; it has electric lights that can be bitten through by dogs and cats, and while I’ve heard that there’s not enough power to hurt a pet, I wouldn’t want to risk it. Another danger is the actual decorations on the tree. Icicles in particular are one of the most dangerous Christmas decorations because if a cat or dog eats them, they can bind up in their intestines and cause a blockage, or actually cut through the intestines causing internal injuries. If icicles don’t pass through their system safely, it can require emergency surgery. The safest thing to do is simply not use icicles at all on your tree. If your pet has eaten icicles and you see some sticking out of their anus, never pull on it!
New Years Eve:
Similar to Independence Day, New Years Eve celebrates with fireworks. Please make sure your pets are safe before all of the scary noises start.
The Rest of the Time:
Holidays are not the only occasions that are hazardous to our beloved pets. Any time someone brings a gift into your home with long ribbons that your pet could eat, or chocolate that’s left where a dog or cat could reach it can mean an emergency trip to the vet’s office. Please be aware of your pets’ proximity to dangers and have a fun year of celebrations.