Holiday Pet Safety Tips

Thanksgiving is next week and some are already planning their shopping trips, whether it be to the supermarket for groceries or to the mall for early sales.  Please keep in mind the following information to help keep your pets safe and healthy this holiday season!

From the ASPCA,

‘Tis the season for friends, family and holiday feasts—but also for possible distress for our animal companions. Pets won’t be so thankful if they munch on undercooked turkey or a pet-unfriendly floral arrangement, or if they stumble upon an unattended alcoholic drink.

Talkin’ Turkey
If you decide to feed your pet a little nibble of turkey, make sure it’s boneless and well-cooked. Don’t offer her raw or undercooked turkey, which may contain salmonella bacteria.

Sage Advice
Sage can make your Thanksgiving stuffing taste delish, but it and many other herbs contain essential oils and resins that can cause gastrointestinal upset and central nervous system depression to pets if eaten in large quantities. Cats are especially sensitive to the effects of certain essential oils.

No Bread Dough
Don’t spoil your pet’s holiday by giving him raw bread dough. According to ASPCA experts, when raw bread dough is ingested, an animal’s body heat causes the dough to rise in his stomach. As it expands, the pet may experience vomiting, severe abdominal pain and bloating, which could become a life-threatening emergency, requiring surgery.

Don’t Let Them Eat Cake
If you’re baking up Thanksgiving cakes, be sure your pets keep their noses out of the batter, especially if it includes raw eggs—they could contain salmonella bacteria that may lead to food poisoning.

Too Much of a Good Thing
A few small boneless pieces of cooked turkey, a taste of mashed potato or even a lick of pumpkin pie shouldn’t pose a problem. However, don’t allow your pets to overindulge, as they could wind up with a case of stomach upset, diarrhea or even worse—an inflammatory condition of the pancreas known as pancreatitis. In fact, it’s best keep pets on their regular diets during the holidays.

A Feast Fit for a Kong
While the humans are chowing down, give your cat and dog their own little feast. Offer them Nylabones or made-for-pet chew bones. Or stuff their usual dinner—perhaps with a few added tidbits of turkey, vegetables (try sweet potato or green beans) and dribbles of gravy—inside a Kong toy. They’ll be happily occupied for awhile, working hard to extract their dinner from the toy.

From the American Animal Hospital Association,

Holiday Temptations Can Cause Emergencies


“Veterinary emergencies are going to happen, and we have to be prepared for anything and everything,” explains Anna Brock Miller, CVT, from Upstate Veterinary Specialists in Greenville, S.C.

She recalls Sydney, a five-year-old female Labradoodle who ate a gingerbread house during the holidays. Unfortunately, the house was put together with metal pins. Sydney was referred to their emergency practice, where an initial examination was performed and radiographs (X-rays) were taken. They did an abdominal exploratory surgery and removed 60 to 80 pins from her stomach. Luckily, Sydney did well and went home the next day.

AAHA-accredited hospitals are required to be prepared to respond to emergencies. Emergencies come in all shapes and sizes, and some require a referral to specialty or emergency practices that are equipped to handle unique or extreme cases. In Sydney’s case, she was referred to an emergency practice that was open and set up to deal with her unique situation.

Holiday Hazards

Tinsel and/or yarn can be a fun toy, but a few minutes of fun can result in severe consequences for your cat or dog. Many times, you may not know what your pet ate until you see it coming out of its back end. And, if you do see it, never pull it out. You don’t how much or how long the foreign body is, and if you pull on it, it can tangle or tear the colon or intestines.

Always see your veterinarian if you suspect that your pet has ingested a foreign body. Many times, your veterinarian can take a radiograph or use an endoscope (a flexible device that is inserted into the stomach or intestines) to determine if and what your pet has consumed.

Miller recalls a second holiday case, Nigel, a nine-month-old male Dandie Dinmont terrier that was also referred to their emergency practice. Nigel’s symptoms were acute vomiting overnight, lethargy, and lack of appetite. The owners realized the dog was eating an ornament from the tree.

Other things that can be dangerous around the holidays

  • Mistletoe
  • Lilies
  • Chocolate
  • Raisins/grapes
  • Fruit cake
  • Turkey bones
  • Poinsettia

The hospital took radiographs and did preoperative blood work, then performed abdominal exploratory surgery during which several pieces of rubber were found in the intestine. Fortunately again, Nigel recovered and went home a few days later.

Be aware of what you’re putting under the tree. That package from Aunt Betty may contain something that your pet just can’t resist. When you think that a dog’s ability to smell is about 100 times better than ours, you’ll realize that your dog is probably smelling that box of candy from the backyard. Many holiday treats, foods, and plants can be toxic or even lethal to pets. It’s always a good idea to keep your veterinarian’s phone number close to the phone (or programmed in your cell phone) just in case you need to make that call.

Johnson, MSS, CVT, is an AAHA practice accreditation coordinator.

This article originally appeared in PetsMatter Nov/Dec 09 – Volume 4 Issue 6, published by the American Animal Hospital Association. Copyright © 2009 AAHA

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