Tips for keeping animals safe over the holidays

Excess fatty food, large crowds can overwhelm pets

Chris Collis

For many pet owners, their furry four-legged friends are bone-afide members of the family, with presents under the tree at Christmas and even their own stockings.

It’s important to remember that with all the excitement, extra food and decorations, the holidays can bring a handful of unexpected hazards for the animals in the house, from eating improper food to much more serious dangers.

“The most common thing we see over the holidays is gastroenteritis, just from getting into things they shouldn’t,” says Dr. Chris Collis, veterinarian and owner of Eagle Rise and Glenview animal hospitals. “We’ll see upset stomachs up to the risk of pancreatitis just from overindulging.”

Turkey drippings, table scraps and leftover bones can make a dog howl with joy, but high fat and rich foods are one of the biggest culprits of the season. Resist the puppy dog eyes and avoid having to clean up more than just wrapping paper scraps.

“It’s really no different than in humans,” says Collis. “If you overindulge, there’s likely going to be a price for that.”

Ensure dogs in particular avoid chocolate and raisins completely as well, as they can cause more serious, and sometimes fatal, effects.

The many varieties of holiday plants look festive, but if there are cats in the house, it may be best to pass if the felines are inclined to nibble.

Holly and poinsettia ingestion can cause mouth irritation, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea or lethargy. Mistletoe has the potential to cause cardiovascular problems, but is more likely to cause stomach upset. And many types of lilies are one of the most deadly, with the potential to cause kidney failure in cats, even if they just drink the water out of the vase.

If you’re expecting a lot of company over the holidays, it’s good to know how your pet handles the influx of people.

“If your pet is prone to anxiety from the noise and extra activity, like doorbells and lots of people, it’s okay to put them in a quiet room with a favourite bed and toy if they’re overwhelmed,” says Michelle Pedro of Island Pet Source. “You can also bring home a meaty bone or a long lasting chew to occupy your dog.”

As for tree decorations, make sure ornaments are firmly affixed, keep electrical cords tucked safely away and avoid leaving out ribbons or bows.

“Nobody uses tinsel anymore, thank goodness, but I’d still be cautious of anything that cats take a particular interest in playing with,” Collis says.

acowan@goldstreamgazette.com