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The holidays are stressful enough without having to make an unscheduled trip to the veterinarian. Prevention is key! Here are some hazards to be on guard against in order to help keep your pet safe this holiday season.
Not only can animals get underfoot while you are cooking and get stepped on or burned, there are potentially toxic dangers in the kitchen. Foodstuffs such as xylitol, grapes, raisins, onions, garlic, raw yeast dough, macadamia nuts, alcohol and chocolate are just a few common food items that can be potentially poisonous to our pets.
Another risk this time of year is pancreatitis. The pancreas normally secretes enzymes to help digest food and insulin to help with glucose (sugar) metabolism. Occasionally when pets ingest something high-fat (butter, gravy, turkey skin, roast drippings) or spicy, the pancreas can get inflamed. When this occurs, your pet can experience severe abdominal pain and vomiting and potentially die. If your pet is vomiting or acting lethargic, please contact your veterinarian immediately.
The kitchen trash is also a potential source of danger. Bones, such as from a turkey carcass or roast, can potentially perforate or otherwise damage the digestive tract. String used to tie up the turkey or roast can get caught in the digestive tract. Plastic and aluminum foil are not poisonous, but they could also cause a gastrointestinal obstruction if consumed. Signs of an obstruction include repetitive vomiting, lethargy and abdominal pain.
Always avoid open flames, including candles, when pets are in the home. If candles must be lit for a special holiday observance, do not leave the candles unattended and consider securing pets in a crate or another room while the candles are lit. Use caution if you are using simmering potpourri because it may contain essential oils that can be toxic to cats. And be aware that even when it is cold it can cause chemical burns if ingested or if spilled on the skin. Dried potpourri can cause an obstruction and vomiting if ingested. Live plants are often used to brighten up holiday décor, but be aware that you should keep pets away from them. The poinsettia has been maligned for many years as being an extremely toxic plant. The truth is that, if ingested, it may cause mild stomach upset, although this is still not something you want to expose your pet to. Holly and pine boughs (as trees or garland) can also cause vomiting if ingested. Be aware of any floral arrangements that contain lilies, as they are toxic to cats.
You may know what you need to do to help keep your pets away from hazards but your guests may not. Remind them not to leave purses or suitcases open or where pets can get into them and find snacks, medications, etc. You should also advise your guests not to feed pets table food without asking and not to leave food and drinks in places where your pets could help themselves.
One really important thing you can do is to make sure your pet is microchipped and/or is wearing a collar with an identification tag in case he accidentally sneaks out the door. It is easy for pets to get lost in the flurry of people coming in and going out or if guests are unaware of your household routines. Especially during the holidays, pets should always have a safe, quiet place they can retreat to. Shy cats or dogs may not want to be involved in the action and even friendly pets may need a break.
Finally, always make sure you have your veterinarian’s number and hours of operation or the emergency clinic phone number handy in case of any mishaps. If you think your pet has come in contact with or ingested any hazardous items please call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center, at 1-888-426-4435, immediately.
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