As a veterinarian, it is important to begin instructing clients on the household hazards that arise around the holidays. Pointing out the possible dangers of holiday specific hazards can help keep pets safe and healthy and pet owners happy. Household hazards to your pets’ health can include guests and visitors, decorations, and holiday plants, trees or flowers.
Holiday Hazard #1: Guests and Visitors
Visitors and guests can pose a threat to animals in multiple ways. From leaving the wrong door ajar to unexpected treats, people often don’t think about the harm they could do to their host’s pet. Writing up some simple reminders and posting them in highly trafficked and visible areas can go a long way toward reducing the likelihood of a tragic accident.
Especially important is the reminder to instruct their guests not to give extra treats and scraps from the dinner table. Not only can the extra food throw off the animal’s regular feeding schedule or increase the likelihood of obesity, but soft bones can splinter and damage the pet’s mouth or esophagus. Spicy, rich, or fatty foods (commonly served during holiday meals) may cause vomiting and diarrhea and can also lead to inflammation of the pancreas which can be life threatening.
Holiday Hazard #2: Decorations and Treats
Certain holiday decorations such as tinsel, ribbons, and ornaments can also be hazardous to pets. Animals can accidentally pull heavy items onto themselves or accidentally swallow small pieces. Explain to your clients that string like items can damage a pet’s intestine and may have to be surgically removed. Tinsel is especially dangerous for cats, who tend to nibble on the toxic, shiny strings.
Holidays also typically mean there will be more candy and treats in the house; clients should know that chocolate or candy sweetened with xylitol can be incredibly harmful for pets. Dogs are especially likely to chow down on any candy left in display bowls or dropped on the floor. An overdose of xylitol can be fatal, so be sure to keep candy out of reach or in a fully enclosed container to prevent ingestion.
Holiday Hazard #3: Plants, Trees, and Flowers
Poinsettia can cause stomach upset if consumed. If eaten in large quantities, the red flowers can be toxic. Keep poinsettias out of reach of household pets – on mantles, tall side tables, or in hanging baskets. Holly and mistletoe are even more poisonous than poinsettia and can cause intestinal upset. Let your clients know that it’s safest to keep holly and mistletoe out of reach of pets or to use synthetic flora.
Christmas tree water can be treated with preservatives (including fertilizers) and may also cause stomach upset if drunk. Bacteria can also gather and breed in water that the Christmas tree stands in and, if ingested, may lead to nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Covering the Christmas tree stand with plastic or cloth can help prevent it from being ingested.
Clients need to be aware of the various holiday hazards that can be found around the house and take care to keep their pets safe from these items. Start reminding your clients of the dangers that can be present around the house for the holidays now so they can take precautions.