Holiday hazards for pets: what to watch out for this season

The winter holidays are right around the corner, which means that you’re probably getting ready to deck the halls and host some seasonal celebrations. But while this time of year is filled with joy and merriment, it can also be filled with hidden dangers. That’s especially true when it comes to animals in your care.

Although you probably regard your pets just like any other member of the household, it can be tough to know when their health and safety are at risk. And because your dog or cat can’t talk, you might not realize that your yuletide festivities might be hazardous to their well-being. Therefore, it’s up to pet owners to ensure that their furry friends are safeguarded from harm during the holidays — and to seek out emergency veterinary services if the worst should occur. Here are just some of the potential pet safety risks to watch out for in the coming weeks.

  • Holiday Foods: Your dog or cat may enjoy sampling some human snacks, but you’ll need to be extremely careful about what you let your pet munch on this holiday. Many fresh fruits and veggies are fine for your pup, but steer clear of letting them sample anything with onions, garlic, grapes, raisins, nuts, or chocolate. Even turkey, table scraps, and bread dough should be avoided, as should anything containing artificial sweeteners and any alcoholic beverages (so be sure your guests guard their drinks and desserts!). Keep pets away from food prep and eating areas to ensure their safety and the comfort of your loved ones.

  • Seasonal Plants: Although you might love traditional holiday flowers and greenery, you’ll need to make some adjustments if you own a dog or cat. Poinsettia plants can be dangerous to animals; while they aren’t deadly (like many pet owners believe), ingesting these plants can cause mouth and stomach irritation (or vomiting, in some cases). When ingested, mistletoe can cause diarrhea, vomiting, breathing difficulties, hallucinations, collapse, and even death — so if you hang it, make sure it’s somewhere your pets cannot access. Holly is another problematic plant, as it can cause diarrhea and vomiting if ingested by pets. And if you have a real tree, pine needles should also be regularly cleaned up to ensure your pet doesn’t eat them. They can cause mouth irritation, vomiting, lethargy, and physical weakness.

  • Christmas Decorations: You might love trimming the tree, but holiday decor can also cause problems for pets. Tinsel can cause major issues if ingested, as can ornaments. If you use these elements, place them higher on the tree where your pet can’t chew on them. Keep electrical cords and candles inaccessible to pets, as well. As a rule, you shouldn’t leave your pet alone in a room with ornaments or lit candles. Animals who like to climb might tip over the tree, causing damage and possible injuries. So unless you want to spend your holiday obtaining veterinary services, you’ll want to keep a close eye on your furry friends.

What Should You Do If Your Pet Gets Sick During the Holidays?

Although your local veterinarian will suggest twice-yearly checkups for older pets, that doesn’t mean your regular vet appointment should be the only time to discuss issues. You should always err on the side of caution when it comes to your pet’s well-being. Since dogs and cats will often hide their pain, it may take some shrewd observation to detect when something is wrong.

If you do detect signs of illness — including vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, lack of appetite, frequent or strained urination, persistent coughing or wheezing, excessive thirst, or any other abnormal behaviors — it’s essential to take your pet to a veterinary clinic right away. While no pet owner wants to deal with an emergency (especially during the holiday season), it’s a good idea to talk to your vet about who to call and the proper steps to take when their offices are closed. That way, you can access the vital veterinary services your pet needs at any time.

This holiday, the well-being of your family should come first. Prioritize the safety of your pet and establish a plan to obtain veterinary services whenever necessary.

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