Holiday Pet Hazards

I was discussing holiday hazards with a veterinary friend in preparation for writing this blog.  She shared this story, “Early in my veterinary career I remember vividly the day one of our clients came rushing into the practice with her two dogs. She had been running errands in preparation for her annual Christmas party and had the dogs with her in the car. Heidi and Ho were two standard dachshunds each weighing in at around 18 pounds. Like most dachshunds they were excellent beggars and loved food. As their owner made her way from errand to errand the dogs chilled out in the passenger’s seat.

Then came the mistake.

One of Jill’s final errands was to pick up her main entre, a whole pork shoulder, fully cooked, from the local barbeque restaurant. She placed her guest’s dinner in the backseat, still warm, completely wrapped in aluminum foil and sitting in a box. Her next stop was a quick in and out at the wine shop. To her horror, when she got back to the car, she discovered two very happy dogs covered in grease and licking their lips with delight. They had devoured half – yes HALF– of a 20 pound pork shoulder! Her next stop was the unplanned visit to the vet where the culprits were induced to vomit up their greasy feast.” 

This is one of many similar stories any veterinary team member could share. Fortunately, for Heidi and Ho their owner was aware of their gluttony and rapid to respond, so they came away with nothing more than some vomiting and an unexpected bath. This could have become a critical issue with these older dogs eating so much fat. Pancreatitis is serious and painful and if not caught early – deadly.

Holidays are fun but also hectic. Our routines are broken by shopping, parties and guests. These things that disrupt our lives also have effects on our pets. 

As Fear Free Certified veterinary professionals, our team’s concerns go beyond warnings about food hazards to the mental health of pets. Nervous pets used to a calm routine can be stressed by strangers in their home.  Dogs not used to small children can nip if approached inappropriately. Always monitor your pets for signs of distress, and allow them a quite place to escape and feel safe. It is not uncommon for pets to dart out the door when visitors come in and out so keeping them confined until everyone is in and settled is a good idea. Make sure they are microchipped and the contact information is up to date.

Keep in mind that alcohol, chocolate, things made with the artificial sweetener xylitol such as candy, sugar free gum or peanut butter are hazards to pets.  Onions, raisins, and grapes are poisonous to pets but are common in holiday meals. Be careful about dropping these on the floor while cooking, as our pets are great scavengers.

Another older veterinary friend once told a story of being called to a client’s home back in the day when vets took their own emergencies. The panicked owner described her dog as staggering and possibly having a seizure. The vet went to the house only to discover that the owner had guests over for a cocktail party and some of the guests had placed their beverages on the floor beside the chairs. The dog had visited chair to chair and taken advantage of the low hanging fruit. Rather than having a seizure as the owner thought the dog was DRUNK. Guests who do not live with pets do not realize how clever they can be when food is involved. 

The American Veterinary Medical Association has an excellent list of common holiday hazards for pets. We invite you to take a look at all the things veterinarians are commonly called to treat and be sure to plan accordingly. We love seeing our patients for healthy checkups, but we don’t want to ruin their (and your) holiday fun with avoidable ailments.

So, keep your Halloween goblins at bay, don’t let the Thanksgiving turkey end up like the pork shoulder, and keep the holiday party drinks off the floor and out of reach.

 Have a wonderful and joyous holiday season…and remember, we are always here for you just in case