Preparing for the Holidays: How to Keep Your Pet Safe This Holiday Season

A Note from Dr. John:

Who doesn’t love the holidays? Great food, friends, and family galore. And whose pet doesn’t love the holidays? All those people around feeling extra generous with their food and gifts. Here at PetMart Pharmacy, we love the warmth of the holidays, too, but we want to make sure that your furry friends stay safe. Here are a few pointers to help make sure you spend your free time at home with family and not at the vet’s office with a sick pet.

Holiday Dangers to Avoid:
  • Chocolate.  Dogs are particularly sensitive to the effects of chocolate on blood pressure and heartrate, leading to many potentially serious side effects. All chocolates are not created equal in tingling your taste buds or in effecting your dog’s cardiovascular system. The general rule is the darker the chocolate, the more harmful. Baker’s chocolate is the most dangerous, followed by dark chocolate, then all the way down to milk and white chocolate. The best approach is to prevent your dog from eating chocolate in the first place, so make sure it’s stored away safely. Just because it is wrapped up nice and tidy under the Christmas tree doesn’t mean Fluffy won’t tear that package right open and gobble down a bag full of delicious chocolate—and wrappers! If your dog eats chocolate, the best thing you can do is contact your veterinarian or the Poison Control Hotline (855-764-7661) for advice.  
  • Fatty Foods.  High fat foods such as ham sure taste great to many of us and help bring on those wonderful post-lunch naps. For dogs that rarely eat fatty food, however, ham and other foods can cause severe pancreatitis. This can lead to prolonged treatment, lots of time spent at the hospital, and less time at home with the family. Tempted to give your pet a taste of the wild by offering him or her a turkey or ham bone? Better to avoid the upset stomach or potentially perforated intestines (yikes!) from a sharp bone fragment. Warn Uncle Larry that he pays the bill if he drops the bone!
  • Toxic Plants.  Poinsettias and Lilies can make for beautiful seasonal decorations. However, Poinsettias can cause upset stomach and vomiting for both cats and dogs if ingested. Also, certain types of Lilies (but not all) are very toxic to cats, potentially causing kidney failure if ingested.  Common toxic Lilies include Day Lilies, Tiger Lilies and Easter Lilies. Safe varieties include Peace Lilies, Calla Lilies, and Lily-of-the-Valley. Again, best to play it safe and keep these plants out of reach of your pets.  You can read more about toxic plant varieties on the ASPCAwebsite. 
  • Holiday Decorations.  Tinsel looks great on your Christmas tree, but its twinkle can catch the eye of a curious cat. Although watching your cat bat around some lifeless decorations can be very entertaining, these items can get anchored under his or her tongue if ingested.  This can cause choking, vomiting, and likely requires sedation and removal at your veterinarian’s office. Not a great way to spend the holidays!

Here’s to a happy and safe holiday season from our family to yours! 
Our information is not intended to replace the advice of your veterinarian.  Do not use this information for diagnostic purposes. Always take your pet to your veterinarian to obtain a diagnosis and course of treatment. 

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