Every year, Veterinarians report an uptick in sick visits, directly related to the holiday season. Sadly, most of them are completely avoidable! Let’s take a look at some of the perils our pets face from holiday festivities.

GI upsets, related to Thanksgiving dinner, are an annual launch of the holiday season. While family and friends may understandably want to share some yummies with our furry family members, the momentary joy these goodies evoke, is rarely worth the consequences. If repeat offenders ignore your warnings against table scraps, it may be worthwhile to designate a “safe zone” for your pets while food is being served! Particular attention needs to be paid to poultry bones which represent not only a choking hazard, but can also splinter and result in perforated intestines, a life threatening condition! Since our furry friends are masters at “crimes of opportunity,” be careful to secure the garbage when you’re tossing out  turkey remnants. Rawhide chews are a safe alternative, and a perfect distraction. As always, they should be given under close supervision.

As the holidays progress, decorations and wrapping materials become magnets to both cats and dogs, and the perils they represent are endless! Twinkling lights on trees, glass ornaments, tinsel garland, are all too much for any pet to resist. As far as kitty is concerned, trees…both real and artificial, are climbing opportunities, and if not anchored safely to prevent tipping, they’ll come crashing to the floor with kitty and your heirloom ornaments, clinging for dear life! Real trees and their enticing branches that invite chewing, are known to be mildly toxic with fir tree oils causing excessive drooling and vomiting. Pine needles aren’t easily digested, and if eaten, will cause a variety of gastric issues from vomiting, to bowel obstruction, to intestinal punctures…potentially life threatening consequences.  The preservative added to tree water to extend the life of the tree indoors, is poisonous to dogs who consume the water.

Glass ornaments, either swallowed whole, in pieces, or stepped on, can result in damage associated with any glass shards. If you can’t avoid using glass ornaments, hang them up high on a well anchored tree, out of the reach of curious pets. In the case of cats, it’s better to avoid them all together! Electrical cords of twinkling lights can result in mouth damage from chewing as well as electrical shock. It’s always safest to keep them well above the low hanging branches.

Perhaps one of the most unexpected hazards relates to snow globes. Most people assume these holiday favorites are filled with water. In reality, many contain ethylene glycol…a chemical commonly used in antifreeze. It’s sweet flavor makes it especially palatable, but ingesting even small amounts can result in death!

Ribbon used for decorating packages is irresistible for pets, but if consumed, can result in intestinal obstruction requiring surgery. Wire ribbon has the potential to lacerate and puncture as well.

Throughout the holidays, with an increase in entertaining and visitors to your home, it’s also important to remind guests that an open door can result in a missing pet…even well trained, older pets can become stressed by all the activity, and flee the safety of their home. With a focus on “safety first,” it’s always best to relocate pets to a closed room until everyone has left.

Throw in holiday plants that are not pet friendly like mistletoe, poinsettias, and holly, lighted holiday candles, holiday cocktails left where sips can be stolen, and the mere thought of holiday celebrations seems overwhelming! Don’t panic…with planning, a willingness to rethink some of our traditions, and a tweaking of our displays to incorporate more safety oriented components, the holidays can be a genuinely joyous celebration enjoyed by every member of the family!

Take some time to assess your plans now, and if you feel you need more information or guidance, your Veterinarian will be happy to help! Have a happy and SAFE holiday season!