How to Avoid a Holiday Pet Emergency

Dec 08, 2020

How to Avoid a Holiday Pet Emergency

Over the next few weeks, you will fill your home with wonderful cooking aromas, deck the halls with sparkle and cheer, and prepare for family celebrations. Of course, your furry friend will be by your side, supervising and hoping to join in the festivities. But, the hustle and bustle can create opportunities for your pet to land on the naughty list—and in the emergency room. A pet emergency can quickly dampen the holiday spirit, so we are sharing our tips for a happy, pet-safe holiday season.  

#1: Pet-proof your Christmas tree

A Christmas tree is the centerpiece of your holiday display that you decorate to perfection, or let the kids go wild with homemade ornaments and popcorn garland. But, to your pet, this new living room “furniture” may seem like a giant jungle gym, complete with hanging toys and snacks. To prevent a tree disaster that could be serious enough to require an emergency room visit, consider your decor from your pet’s perspective.Avoiding a Holiday Pet Emergency

  • Ornaments — Dangling ornaments are no match for your cat’s curious paws, or your dog’s wagging tail, so place breakable ornaments on higher branches where they cannot be knocked off and broken. Also, hang salt dough ornaments that your kids have lovingly crafted high out of reach, as eating the dough can cause dangerous salt toxicity in pets.
  • Tinsel — Cats love these shiny strands, and often can’t resist eating them. Unfortunately, your cat’s intestines won’t love the intrusion, and can accordion around the string-like foreign body, creating an obstruction or a perforation. 
  • Lights — No tree is complete without lights, but your curious puppy or kitten may chew through an electrical cord, or become wrapped in the blinking light strands. Keep cords tucked safely away, and keep your mischievous pets away from the tree when you cannot supervise them. 
  • The tree — Many climbing cats and roughhousing dogs have knocked over perfectly decorated Christmas trees. To keep your tree intact, and prevent injury, secure it to the wall or ceiling with fishing line or wire. 
  • Tree stand water — The water that sits in your tree stand may contain tree fertilizers, bacteria and mold, and chemical additives. Your pet may be undeterred by this nasty concoction and lap up the water as if the tree stand is their personal evergreen-flavored water dish. Keep pets out by covering the stand, or placing a citrus-scented deterrent (e.g., orange peel) under your tree skirt. 

#2: Don’t bring toxic plants into your home

Nothing says Christmas like greenery-wrapped banisters and a beautiful table centerpiece. Unfortunately, many holiday plants are not pet-friendly, and can cause toxicity if your pet ingests leaves, needles, or flowers. Especially avoid lilies if you have a cat, because they are extremely toxic to cats, and eating only small amounts of the flowers, pollen, and leaves can cause kidney failure and constitute an emergency. Artificial arrangements are safest for your pet, but if you can’t resist fresh greenery, avoid these toxic varieties:

  • Lilies
  • Amaryllis
  • Mistletoe
  • Balsam
  • Pine
  • Cedar
  • Holly
  • Christmas cactus

Once thought to cause life-threatening toxicity, poinsettia plants only mildly irritate pets who eat leaves or flowers. The plant’s sap may cause drooling or vomiting, but is unlikely to lead to more serious effects. 

#3: Resist pleading puppy dog eyes at dinnertime

Thanksgiving to Christmas may seem like one big buffet, and you may feel bad leaving your pet out of your glorious feasting. But, small amounts of some human foods can be toxic to pets. Keep these dangerous foods and ingredients away from your pet’s food bowl:

  • Chocolate
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Chives
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Raw yeast dough
  • Xylitol-containing sugar-free foods 
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeinated drinks

Although not toxic, fatty foods, such as turkey trimmings and rich side dishes, contain more fat than your pet usually eats, and can lead to pancreatitis. This severe inflammation can cause vomiting, abdominal pain, and dehydration, which often requires hospitalization, and severe cases can become life-threatening.

If you cannot resist your pet’s pleading glances while you pile your plate, give them a few bites of unseasoned, butter-free, pet-safe foods, such as:

  • Turkey breast
  • Cooked sweet potato
  • Raw carrots
  • Raw green beans

Your pet doesn’t know what’s on your full buffet, and will be happy to receive a few morsels of any human food. 

#4: Invite your nervous pet to a party for one

Before inviting your pet to your loud, chaotic family celebration, consider whether they enjoy being the center of attention, or shrink in fear from well-meaning party guests. Most cats hate being carted around by young children, and tail-pulling little ones can make the most well-behaved dog nervous. If your pet becomes anxious, they may nip a guest, or bolt through an open door and become lost. 

Instead of forcing your pet to socialize, set up a cozy, quiet space in a back room where they can relax in peace. Include their favorite bed or blankets, and surprise them with a new toy. A special treat, like a frozen Kong packed with canned food or yogurt and veggies, will keep them busy while you socialize. You can also play soft music to cover up any party noise and help them relax.  

We hope your family enjoys a safe and healthy holiday season, but if your pet gets into mischief, despite your precautions, we are always available to help. Contact us, or bring your pet to Upstate Vet’s emergency service for immediate care. 

Veterinary Professionals