As the holidays approach, it's important that pet owners be aware of situations and/or items that could possibly harm our pets. Holiday plants, decorations, festive foods, radiating fireworks and more can pose a threat to our pets.
We've put together a few examples of plants to keep away from pets and the side effects you may see if they get into them:
Mistletoe: if ingested, even a small amount can cause gastrointestinal signs such as drooling, vomiting, diarrhea and gastrointestinal pain.
Poinsettias: mild side effects but can include: drooling and vomiting, possibly diarrhea. Also, the milky sap may cause skin and/or eye irritation if your pet comes into contact with it
Holly: severe vomiting, diarrhea, cardiovascular problems.
Lilies: toxic to cats as if ingested, may cause kidney failure.
Christmas tree: real trees shed pine needles that animals may ingest that may lacerate the intestines. Additives to the water (fertilizers) may be toxic if ingested. The decorations on trees may also pose a hazard. Cats love to play with string and for whatever reason ingest it. Therefore, tinsel and any string-like decorations if ingested may require surgery to address. Keep the gift wrapping supplies out of your pets’ reach. Remember cats love string and ribbons. Also, edible decorations can cause gastrointestinal issues as well as blockages. Finally, the electric lights could burn or electrocute your pet.
Foods to Avoid
Chocolate: Dogs love the taste of chocolate. Bakers chocolate is the most toxic. With large amounts, theobromine can produce muscle tremors, seizures, an irregular heartbeat, internal bleeding or a heart attack. The onset of theobromine poisoning is usually marked by severe hyperactivity.
Sweets (candy, sugar, etc.): high sugar content foods are difficult for cats and dogs to digest. It is very stressful on the pancreas, thus in many cases causing pancreatitis which usually requires hospitalization. Mild amounts may cause vomiting and diarrhea. It depends on the size of your pet and the quantity he/she ingested. In addition, xylitol is found in gum and breath mints. Xylitol is toxic to pets as it may cause a serious decrease in blood sugar.
Leftover turkey, ham, gravy, etc.: these food items usually cause diarrhea and sometimes vomiting. There is a risk of pancreatitis as usually the grease, nitrate and salt content is high in these foods. Remember, pancreatitis may be deadly.
Fireworks pose unexpected danger
Loud noises can stress out cats and dogs. They may run away out of fear. Hence microchipping and identification tags are always a good idea.
Pets may be burned by fireworks. Some dogs may try to chase or attack the fireworks.
Believe it or not, some pets may ingest firework remnants which can often be toxic.
Through awareness and planning, we can keep our pets safe. We can take out the garbage frequently especially during the holidays (and keep the lid on tight). It is best to teach your dog not to beg as this may avoid guests from feeding them table food. We can be careful when decorating for the holidays by keeping items out of pets’ reach, by not using edible decorations and staying away from tinsel and other string-like décor that cats may be attracted to. Make sure the Christmas tree is stable. You can place foil around the base to keep cats away.Sometimes our pets should be placed in a kennel, or in a quiet room during festive activities. Recognize their stress level. Some pets may even require a calming supplement or medication during these times. Pets should be microchipped and at least have an identification tag (may be difficult regarding cats, but certainly dogs should have their owner’s information on a tag.) Even though your pet may have never run away in the past, it is always possible if they become fearful.Do not hesitate to take your pet to a local veterinary emergency hospital if he or she becomes unusually lethargic, is vomiting, or has diarrhea for longer than 24 hours. When an animal displays discomfort, it should be acknowledged, as our pets still have animal instincts and are able to hide discomfort well. So, once it is obvious they are in discomfort, most likely the pet should be seen by a veterinarian.A reliable source if information is needed regarding your pet possibly ingesting toxin is the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center hotline is: (888)426-4435.
How can Preventative Care help my pets?
Bi-Annual Exams (Twice a year)The most important aspect of preventative care are the bi-annual exam visits. These visits allow the doctors to monitor weight changes, mass or growth developments, listen for development of heart murmurs and discuss any concerns noted at home.
VaccinesWhile not the only important piece, preventative care does also include the vaccines. Dogs need to be vaccinated for dangerous and life-threatening Rabies, Distemper, Parvo, Bordetella. In the Austin area, we also recommend vaccination for Leptospirosis. These vaccines help to prevent development of diseases. It is very important to follow the recommended schedule. Cats need to receive their Rabies vaccine and their FVRCP vaccine (rhinotracheitis/calicivirus/panleukopenia). We also recommend administration of the feline leukemia vaccine to high exposure or outdoor cats.
Blood TestingAt your semi-annual visit, your doctor will recommend routine lab work. This can include blood, urine and fecal testing. A little more about what these tests are and what they look for:
- Fecal testing helps rule-out intestinal parasite disease.
- Urine testing can help us to evaluate for infection, kidney disease and diabetes.
- Blood testing can include CBC, Chemistry and Electrolyte testing. These values help the doctor to evaluate kidney and liver function, blood sugar levels for diabetes as well as white and red blood cell counts. Routine blood testing can also include thyroid testing, which is important in older pets.
- Other blood tests recommended for dogs and cats are annual heartworm antigen testing and Feline Leukemia (Felv)/Feline AIDS (FIV). Performing these routine lab tests can help with earlier detection of diseases, leading to more successful management and treatment outcomes.
Preventative Care at HomePreventative medicine must also be continued at home. For all pets, we recommend administering monthly heartworm, flea, tick and intestinal parasite control medications. These medications can help prevent serious diseases like Heartworm Disease and tick-borne diseases such as Lyme Disease, Anaplasma and Ehrlichia. Fleas, a common household pest, are much easier to prevent than treat once they become a problem. Additionally, feeding your pet a good quality diet to prevent possible skin and gastrointestinal disorders is recommended.As Benjamin Franklin said "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." We highly recommend you consult with your Animal Care Clinic veterinarian and clinic staff to set the best preventative medicine protocol for your pet. Taking the time to perform this preventative care will help your pet to live a longer and healthier life.