Keeping Your Pets Safe This Holliday Season
Greetings and Happy Holidays! This month’s column is dedicated to safety, because nothing ruins Christmas like ending up in the pet ER.
First, chocolate. Yes, it’s toxic. Chocolate contains Theobromide, which is similar to caffeine. Eating as little as an ounce of dark chocolate or 6 ounces of milk chocolate can get a 20-pound dog into big trouble. Symptoms start with vomiting, diarrhea, increased thirst, boating, and restlessness, and can progress to increased heart rate and breathing, abnormal heart rhythms, seizures, coma and even death.
Dark chocolate and baking chocolate have 6 times the amount of Theobromide than milk chocolate, so be very careful when baking. If your pet does get into chocolate, take the wrapper or box to the vet with you to help them determine the best course of treatment, which may include induced vomiting and fluid therapy.
Alcohol is a no no. It can cause liver and kidney damage, seizures, coma and even death. Marijuana depresses the central nervous system and can lead to rapid heart rate, drooling, restlessness, loss of bladder and bowel control, seizures and coma.
Meats rich in fats and salt, such as ham, can cause a painful inflammation of the pancreas. Many pets end up hospitalized with this condition. Other people foods can cause vomiting and diarrhea at the least. So give your furry kids their favorite food, your company and maybe a bite of your turkey.
Poinsettas aren’t actually poisonous (that’s a myth that began in 1919) but it, and other plants like pine needles and bay can cause irritation or injury to the mouth, vomiting and diarrhea. Undigestable plant material can also end up as a lump in their intestines, often requiring surgery. The most toxic plants are holly and mistletoe, and the Christmas cactus can cause loss of muscle control in cats, and bloody diarrhea in dogs.
Candles. Fun to chew, toast the fur and knock over. Monitor them closely; blow them out when your done or consider flameless candles. Keep electrical cords as inconspicuous as possible, unplug them when you’re away or use plastic cord covering (available at hardware stores.)
YouTube is full of funny videos of pets knocking over trees, but it’s not going to be funny if it happens to you. One friend tethered her tree to the wall after adopting a couple of cats. Decorate above the normal reach of your curious pet, even if it looks funny. And no tinsel — they can’t throw it up and it can get tangled in the intestines and actually kill your pet.
The same is true for ribbons on packages. Glass ornaments — do I need to say it? Opt for stuffed, wooden or plastic. Cookies are cool, but still tempting. Use your imagination and be safe. If you have a real tree, make sure the water is covered. Fertilizers, preservatives, sugar or aspirin added to the water can be toxic.
If you’re having guests over, monitor that front door. Escapes are common when there’s lots of activity and folks unfamiliar with your pets’ behavior. Put bells on your pets if they are out during the party (they may prefer a quiet room, actually) a bell on the doorknob, and a sign that says, “Do you know where the dog/cat is?” And remind guests not to feed your pets anything.
If you’re considering giving a pet as a gift this year, wonderful! Obviously, make sure the recipient wants a pet, then consider things like the activity level of the household, age (i.e. if grandma’s old cat has died she may not need a kitten,) and type of pet. Do your homework first.
Or, consider giving a gift certificate or card stating the adoption fee has been paid, then schedule a visit to the shelter with the recipient after Christmas. Wrap the gift card in a new dog bowl and leash, or litter pan and cat toys to get the excitement going!
Finally some cold weather tips: Outdoor pets need dry hay and fresh water (no metal bowls, please. Think flagpole.) Hypothermia and frostbite can affect animals, too, so bring them inside if advised to do so by the media. Cats and other critters sometimes seek warmth in car engines, so give a knock on the hood, honk the horn, check under your car, and drive away slowly.