Holiday Safety for Our Animal Companions

Well, that time of year is upon us again when friends and family members descend on our houses with treats, ornamental plants, gift baskets and all other manner of potential danger for our pets. It is important to institute safety measures for our furry family members while preparing for all the holiday chaos and fun. The smallest piece of tinsel, rich chocolate dessert, or artificially sweetened piece of candy in the wrong paws might spark disastrous consequences around this time of year. This blog is intended to help caregivers recognize and prevent potential holiday harms.

Highlighted below are some of the more common household toxins and dangers highlighted that are commonly seen around the holidays. At the end of this blog, are the local emergency veterinary hospitals and resources for help if needed in the off-business hours coming up.

Holiday ornaments like snow globes or bubble lights can be mouthed or broken by curious Georges and cause chemical and physical injuries. There are toxins in some lights that when ingested can cause depression, pneumonia, oral and gastro-intestinal irritation. Glass fragments can end up accidentally ingested or embedded in soft tissues. Additionally, some imported snow globes have recently been found to have ethylene glycol (antifreeze) inside. This is extremely toxic to both cats and dogs.

Tinsel just doesn’t look as good when it is being surgically removed from a kitty’s intestinal tract. The attraction of tinsel and the glorious fun that cats think they can have with tinsel just aren’t worth the risk. Linear foreign bodies and intestinal perforations frequently ensue when tinsel is ingested by playful felines – please avoid bringing this irresistible danger into your homes this year.

Although festive, timely, and beautiful Lilies, Mistletoe, Holly, and Poinsettias are all variably toxic. Even the smallest amount of leaf or berry ingestion can cause kidney failure, cardiac arrythmias, and gastrointestinal irritation.

I once treated a beagle three times during the two weeks surrounding the holidays for alcohol ingestion. Unattended holiday cocktails were too irresistible for him as he zeroed in on any unattended drink left on low lying tables! Luckily, he had only mild symptoms that were managed with supportive care and monitoring, but it could have been much worse than three doggy hangovers. Alcohol poisoning can cause fatal hypoglycemia, seizures, and respiratory failure. So, please monitor your drinks if you have opportunistic minors in the house!

Sweets, chocolates, cakes, and confections are essential for some of us over the holidays but can kill our furry family members. Most of us are now aware of the hazards of chocolate and the artificial sweetener xylitol. Chocolate ingestion can cause vomiting and diarrhea and sometimes can be fatal. With super concentrated and high-quality chocolate bars now available, smaller amounts of these boutique candy bars can be serious when gulped down by an unattended canine party goer. Xylitol can be toxic to the liver and cause life-threatening hypoglycemia in very small amounts. So, please keep all holiday confections out of reach!

Fruitcake deserves an honorable mention even though I don’t know any self-respecting dogs that would eat it. But, any that do risk raisin, grape, or currant ingestion and potential toxicity. Fruitcake prohibition is probably best for everyone!

Make no bones about bones and other savory holiday foods that may make your dogs and cats sick. We see increases in dietary indiscretion cases around this time of year due to table scraps offered by the cousins, aunts, uncles, grandmas, the kids, and the neighbors. Bones can cause tooth fractures, gastro-intestinal rips, perforations, and impactions. Some breeds like schnauzers are particularly prone to pancreatitis from too many rich and meaty treats. It is best to ration pre-approved dog and cat treats and ensure that all visitors adhere to rules to keep everyone at home enjoying the holidays instead of spending it at the veterinary ER.

Finally, any chemicals placed in tree stands can be harmful to kitties lapping at a new water source. Potpourri containers can cause chemical burns for any curious tasters wondering what those marvelous and novel smells are.

Before wrapping up, I would like to remind all our conscientious caregivers to remember the personal limits and stressors our beloved cats and dogs may have. In response to visitors, children or other animals in the home, some of our companion animals may not be accustomed to these home invasions. They may react poorly through stress and isolation or even fear or aggression. So, please make your holiday plans accordingly and with the furry ones in mind. If they are best cordoned off from noise, commotion and activities, then make sure they are comfortable and have what they need to weather the storm. If they just can’t resist being party to the party, then ensure their safety in terms of keeping human foods and holiday ornaments out of paws reach.

We wish you the best and healthiest of holidays for all the members of the family!

The following independently owned hospitals offer emergency services:

Animal Medical Center of Seattle
14810 15th Avenue NE, Suite B
Seattle, WA 98155
(206) 204 – 3366

Emerald City Emergency Clinic
4102 Stone Way N
Seattle, WA 98103
(206) 634 – 9000

Veterinary Specialty Center of Seattle
20115 44th Avenue West
Lynnwood, WA 98036

The following are Blue Pearl Emergency and Specialty Centers:

Downtown Seattle
805 Madison Street Suite 100
Seattle, WA 98104
(206) 624 – 9111

4208 Lind Ave SW
Renton, WA 98057
(206) 364 – 1660 option 2

North Seattle
13240 Aurora Ave N
Seattle, WA 98133
(206) 364 – 1660 option 1

(Seattle Veterinary Specialists)
11814 115th Ave NE, Bldg J
Kirkland, WA 98034
(425) 823 – 9111

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