By Andrine Belliveau DVM
It's the most wonderful time of the year! The holiday season is filled with warmth and joy, but it also can present some unexpected hazards for our pets. Pets view our Christmas trees like toddlers do – they are shiny toys that must be played with!
Tinsel is less commonly used in decorating now, but if you do use it, be careful! Cats find the shiny strings irresistible and can develop an intestinal blockage if they consume tinsel. Cats and dogs may both try to play with the lights and cords on the tree and could be shocked if they chew through the cords. A severe electrical cord injury could even cause lung damage or death.
Finally, if you have pets and a live tree, be careful not to add anything to the Christmas tree water. Pets often enjoy drinking the Christmas tree water, and many common additives, such as aspirin, are toxic to pets.
Speaking of toxicity, unfortunately many common holiday plants, such as holly and poinsettias, are also be toxic to pets. The ASPCA maintains a thorough online database where you can check and see if any plants you want to decorate with may be poisonous. If you have plants in your house that are hazardous for pets, make sure they are kept where your pets will not have access to them.
One of the most common issues veterinarians see around the holidays is a condition called pancreatitis. Pancreatitis means “inflammation of the pancreas,” one of the organs involved in digestion.
Both cats and dogs have relatively sensitive GI tracts when compared to humans. Pets tend to eat a very similar diet from day to day, so fatty or rich foods can really upset their system. During the holidays, lots of owners like to treat their pets with rich foods like mashed potatoes, or turkey with gravy. This can cause severe GI upset in pets, often resulting in vomiting, diarrhea, and pancreatitis.
If you want to give you pet a special treat for the holiday, either select a pet-specific treat or food, or keep it bland – offer meat with minimal fat trimmings and no gravy, and vegetables without sauce.
Have a safe and happy holiday season! <