The Holiday Season is approaching fast! For many, the next few months will focus on family, friends and good cheer. But for your furrier family members, the holidays may bring unfamiliar faces, loud noises, and the temptation to eat potentially hazardous things. Knowing what to look out for and the steps to take in an emergency can help ensure that, for both you and your pets, this really is the most wonderful time of the year.

Although it poses a well-known danger to pets, chocolate remains one of the most highly reported pet toxicities. In fact, the Animal Poison Control Center addressed 17,540 chocolate toxicity cases in 2017, or about 48 per day! Chocolate becomes a heightened concern during the holidays because of the increased volume of candies, baked goods, and chocolate-covered treats in the home.

The final few months of the year are brimming with opportunities to decorate your home. Unfortunately for pets, some decorations look like toys and could lead to injury. One major culprit: Tinsel. Shiny and string-like, this is a major temptation for cats. Because tinsel is thin and sharp, it can be swallowed easily and become lodged in a cat’s stomach or intestines, unable to pass through. We recommend skipping the tinsel if you have a cat in your home.

Pet owners whose décor includes a Christmas tree should anchor the tree securely so it cannot tip over. Also, if you have a “real” tree, keep an eye on the water in the tree’s stand. Some pets will lap up the stagnant water, which is a breeding ground for bacteria, and can become ill quickly.

Any decorations that include lit candles could burn a curious pet. So be sure to keep a watchful eye on your pets and your candles—or use alternate decorations.

From a pet’s perspective, many holiday traditions aren’t exciting—they’re scary. The best way to avoid the stress is to put your pet in a secure crate or room, or bring them to a boarding facility, far away from the noises. If you know your pet suffers from noise aversion anxiety, speak with your veterinarian about extra measures you can take to ensure your pet gets through the next few weeks unscathed.

It’s very likely that the sugar-free sweetener, Xylitol, lurks in your pantry. A common ingredient in baked goods, gum, and even peanut butter, this additive is particularly dangerous for dogs. Xylitol can cause their blood sugar to drop and even lead to liver failure. It’s a good idea to check the ingredient list of the foods you serve or prepare at home, and do not give your pets’ table scraps.

It’s widely believed that Poinsettias are toxic to pets, but that’s not entirely true. Eating large amounts of the plant has the potential to sicken your pet, but Mistletoe and Holly are actually more toxic. If ingested, they could lead to vomiting, diarrhea and/or heart arrhythmia in both dogs and cats.

You may look forward to the parties and excitement of the season, but that doesn’t mean your furry family members do. Unfamiliar faces may increase your pet’s level of anxiety or aggression and pose a safety risk to everyone. Also, guests entering and exiting your home may not notice your pet slipping out the door behind them. To help prevent mishaps, tell visitors in advance that you have pets. You should also set up a quiet, comfortable place as a retreat for your pet, or bring them to a boarding facility. Always make sure your pets are wearing collars with id tags, or better yet make sure every pet is micro-chipped and that your contact information is up-to-date.

If you have overnight guests, be leery of their medications. They may leave them in a suitcase or on a nightstand that is accessible to your pets. This applies to prescription and over-the-counter medications, supplements and vitamins. Last year the APCC received nearly 35,000 calls about the accidental ingestion of medications.

You don’t have to choose between having pets and having a good time this holiday season. But being a responsible pet owner means taking precautions to keep your pets (and guests) happy and healthy. Remember we do micro-chip insertion, consultations for anxiety and pet boarding here at the Arlington Animal Hospital.

Happy Holidays!
Dr. Bonnie

Pet of the Month: Lucy & Marty!