By Capt. Melissa A. Dugan, DVM, OIC, Wiesbaden Veterinary Treatment FacilityDecember 12, 2016
The Holiday Season is quickly approaching and with it comes cold weather, festive decorations, amazing food and large gatherings. To avoid the most wonderful time of the year becoming the most memorable time of the year for the wrong reasons, certain precautions should be taken to keep our furry family members safe.
It's always tempting to give in to those adorable, tear-shaped, pleading eyes when they are begging for human food, however, certain human foods can make animals very sick. Chocolate, turkey, sugar-free products containing xylitol, grapes, raisins, onions, garlic, macadamia nuts, bones, and fat trimmings are just a few of the culprits we might be tempted to feed our pets. Each pet responds to the toxin a little differently so it's best to just avoid feeding people food and a potential expensive trip to the veterinary emergency center. Keep any treats left out for guests out of your pets reach and keep the trash cans covered.
Decorations are beautiful, expressive ways to celebrate various holidays, however they can pose a serious hazard to pets. Most are made from materials that can be toxic if ingested by animals. Cats are notorious for ingesting tinsel and strings from gift wrap that can cause severe gastrointestinal problems that often require emergency surgery. Bright, shiny, blinking decorations are a huge hit, but are often plugged in. Dogs especially like to chew on electrical wires and risk being electrocuted. Some cats like to chew the individual light bulbs on the tree. This poses a double hazard…electrocution and knocking over the unsecured tree. It's best to cover cords and unplug any non-essential electrical equipment every time you leave the house. Try to put decorations out of your pet's reach and secure your Christmas tree so it won't fall over on passers-by.
Many holiday plants are toxic to pets. Most species of lilies are toxic to cats and can cause symptoms as mild as excessive drooling to those severe as acute kidney failure or death. Holly berries, mistletoe, and poinsettias are all toxic and again, symptoms can range from mild salivation, vomiting, and diarrhea to seizures, lethargy, renal failure or death. The ASPCA has a more inclusive list for toxic plants for animals at the following link: http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/toxic-and-non-toxic-plants
Traveling with pets can be challenging. Start planning early. Contact your local Veterinary Treatment Facility (VTF) if you are flying and/or crossing borders. Several countries have strict animal import requirements and you could potentially be facing an unexpected quarantine if you don't plan appropriately. If you are boarding your pets, ask the kennel what vaccinations and preventatives are required and contact the VTF to ensure you are current and can board your animals.
Large crowds can create undue stress for our pets. If you are having guests over, create a 'safe haven' for your pet either in a room by themselves or in a quiet place away from guests. This is especially useful if your guest list includes children and your pet isn't used to them.
These are just a few pointers for keeping your furry family members safe during the holiday season. For more information, please visit the US Army Public Health Command Veterinary Services publication "Veterinary Connections: Special Holiday Edition, 2016" at the following link:
Veterinary Connections is a quarterly publication that covers many topics relating to animal health, food safety and one health. Bookmark the following link to access this newsletter each quarter:
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your local Veterinary Treatment Facility, a complete list of facilities can be found at http://rhce.amedd.army.mil.