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The end of the year is a hectic time no matter who you are! Scrambling for last minute gifts, decorating the house, putting on a memorable holiday feast for guests—all holiday stressors we humans face. But what about our cats and dogs? Remember, if your household is experiencing lots of holiday-related changes, so are your pets! Dr. Bianca Buffa of Cascade Hospital for Animals and Breton Village Animal Clinic shares some common dangers that might land your pet in one of our clinics for the holiday…and how to avoid them.

Holiday plants bring holiday joy…and possible trips to the vet

Any plant you bring into your home has the potential to be hazardous to your pet, but the holidays (even spring holidays like Easter) tend to see us bring in the more dangerous species of plants. Contrary to popular belief, the Christmas décor staple poinsettia isn’t as toxic as some of the other common plants used for decorating around the holidays—although ingestion of it can certainly lead to stomach upset and vomiting for both cats and dogs. Keep more worrying seasonal favorites, such as holly and mistletoe out of reach. Ingestion of this festive foliage can result in milder self-limiting signs of gastrointestinal irritation, such as hypersalivation, lip smacking, or anorexia. 

Owners can intervene at home by rinsing the mouth and withholding food and water for a short period. More severe signs, such as vomiting or diarrhea, may require veterinary care and warrant treatment with IV fluid therapy to maintain hydration and electrolyte balance. 

Festivities that break routine Dr. Buffa poses with two patients.

For many pets, the revolving door of holiday guests this time of year is a major source of stress. With the doorbell ringing and sometimes unfamiliar faces (and scents) throughout the house, the break from their normal routine can cause anxiety for animals, especially for cats. Provide a safe space away from guests with access to food, fresh water, and a litter box. Consider using calming pheromone products, such as Feliway diffuser or Adaptil collars to help combat the chaos. 

It’s especially important to puppy or kitten proof the home to avoid holiday hazards!

  • Young animals love to chew when they're teething. Keep electrical wires out of reach, or use a pet-repellent spray. Ensure there is no access to any item that resembles Christmas tree tinsel!
  • If cozying up near a fire,  always use a fireplace screen.
  • During the excitement of unwrapping gifts, don't leave plastic bags out. Inquisitive young animals, especially kittens, can suffocate.

Humans should be the only ones feasting

There’s no denying we eat a lot more around this time of year, and the things we eat tend to be rich, sweet, delicious…and dangerous for pets, if not deadly. It’s never a good idea to share more than the most minimal table scraps with your pets. For the sake of their own health, keeping them on a regular diet is the best bet to keep them at a healthy weight and to avoid serious problems. Around the holidays, the aforementioned houseguests and sloppy eaters are the main culprits sharing food with pets, whether intentionally or not. As much as we’d love to spoil our pets during the holidays, remember that treats can be threats!

  • Chocolate can be dangerous. It contains theobromine, a powerful stimulant that is toxic to pets. Certain sweets may contain toxic ingredients (such as Xylitol) that have potential for life-threatening complications from hypoglycemia or liver damage.
  • Onions and garlic are two savory (and very common) ingredients that can cause anemia or blood cell damage.
  • Never give turkey, chicken or rib bones as a treat. They can splinter and cause serious injury.
  • Resist the urge to share extra savory table scraps from the holiday meal. Fatty protein sources have the potential to cause pancreatitis in pets. 

We can all have fun this holiday season if we remember every member of the family, including those with four legs!