Let’s keep the holidays happy!

It’s that time again! Somehow 2013 has flown by, and we are looking at Thanksgiving, Christmas and that beloved time of family gatherings, gift giving, travel and the all-important, consumption of ridiculous amounts of food.  But let’s not forget our furry, four-legged friends and what the holidays mean to them. Consider the holidays through their eyes…

Starting with Halloween, strangers dressed oddly come and ring the doorbell over and over again.  Once on our front door-step, they “steal” from us by taking our food away… Admittedly, most pets don’t understand the significance of trick-or-treating, (just like that scary garbage-man who comes and “steals” from us week-after-week)…now we have strange little people doing the same thing.  No wonder October 31st can be a very stressful time for our pets!  Help minimize their anxiety by keeping your pets away from the front door and better yet, crate him.  Cats should be kept in a guest room or away from the comings-and-goings, because frightened kitties might bolt out the front door (in which case, is your pet microchipped? Ask your vet about that TODAY!)

Fast forward to Thanksgiving… let’s keep our pets out of the kitchen while you are cooking (a crate can help here, too!)  It will keep your pet from being underfoot, and also minimize the counter surfing or the chance that you will inadvertently (or intentionally) start slipping him treat after treat.  Much of what we eat around this time of year can be fattening at best or toxic at worst.  So err to the side of caution and don’t share your food with your pets.  Make sure your guests know this as well… visiting family members may mean well, but they may not know what can be poisonous to your pets!  This is especially of concern if your pet has any food sensitivities.   Pets that are vomiting or having diarrhea are not going to be well received at the holiday festivities.

While we are in the kitchen, remember to take the trash out…You know how yummy all that cooking and baking smells to us? Well imagine if your nose was 10,000x more sensitive…even the best behaved pet is going to be tempted by turkey legs, fatty grizzle and left over pumpkin pie.  Don’t just blame the dog, either! Cats are notorious for grabbing the strings that tie turkey legs together or small bones, and the strings can rapidly cause serious problems in their gastrointestinal systems.    At best, the dogs may develop “garbage gut” with vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain, or even pancreatitis, a severely painful inflammation of the pancreas that often results in multiple days of hospitalization, IV fluids, medications and pain management.

Just a reminder about the dangerous foods we often eat at Thanksgiving and Christmas…the following are no-no’s…

  • Alcohol- can cause decreased respiration and life-threatening low blood sugar, leading to a coma
  • Bones and turkey legs- NO BONES!!! Please, NO BONES!!!
  • Chocolate- it’s the type and the amount that makes the chocolate toxic, but to be safe, don’t give it!
  • Fatty table scraps- this includes gravy, turkey skin, ham rinds…
  • Grapes, raisins, currants- can cause acute kidney failure, so no fruitcake for Fido
  • Onions, leeks, chives and garlic- can cause anemia and cats are especially sensitive
  • Unbaked bread dough- the yeast and sugar can expand in your pet’s stomach and potentially cause a life-threatening condition known as bloat (gastric dilatation-volvulus)
  • Xylitol- found in gum, mints, mouth washes, chocolate, chewable vitamins….it’s everywhere so be aware

If you think that your pet has ingested something poisonous, contact your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline, an animal poison control right away for 24/7 assistance at 800-213-6680

As much as we love them, admit it, visiting family can sometimes cause some stress in our homes.  If Aunt Agnes’ arrival is causing angst and Cousin Connie’s crazy crew is causing consternation, can you imagine what that is doing to our pets? Our pets pick up on all of our emotions, good, bad, confused, stressed, overwhelmed…. and often will start acting out because of it.  Cats might stop using their litter boxes, dogs might become irritable and snappy (some humans do as well!) So just remember, during this crazy holiday time, always make sure your pets have a safe, quiet place that they can retreat to that is out of the hustle and bustle of the visitors.  If your pet has retreated, let them be.  They are sure to come back out when things settle down.   There are many herbal and drug-free options available to help with the stress, including Rescue Remedy, Feliaway sprays, DAP pheromones  or Thundershirts.   It is always a good idea to speak to your veterinarian about options, both holistic and pharmaceutical, that can help make the holidays easier on your pet.

The holidays are a wonderful time of year, and should be spent with our loved ones, and not in the emergency center with your pet.  With some basic precautions, we can keep everyone healthy and safe and all enjoy the holidays to their fullest.  Next month, we will discuss holiday gift giving and safe and educational toys for our pets! Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!